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Panic Community › Panic Articles › What is obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD? Description and causes
|What is obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD? Description and causes|
|Written by PanicJoe|
|24 July 2007|
Obsessions are defined by:
1 - Reoccurring thoughts that are persistent and intrusive. They are perceived as a disturbance by the person who has them and they cause distress and anxiety.
2 - Obsessive thoughts and images are not simple excessive worries about daily life concerns. They become of importance on their own and control their lives because of the attempt to ignore or suppress them.
3 - The attempt to ignore of suppress obsessive thoughts is done by another thought (that may develop into another obsession) or an action (tat may develop into a compulsion).
4 - The person knows that these thoughts are a product of their own mind, but still they cannot control their occurrence.
Compulsions are defined by:
1 - Repetitive behavior or mental acts that serve to neutralize or cope with an obsession. These actions must be performed according to rigid rules.
2 - These acts are supposed to prevent a certain situation or to neutralize anxiety that is caused by an obsession, but they are not connected logically in reality to the source of the fear and thus actually do not truly serve to neutralize or prevent the stressful even or thought. These acts are excessive and only serve eventually to feed the fear that cannot be neutralized and strengthen the obsession with it.
These actions may seam absurd to another person, but to the OCD sufferer they are necessary and crucial.
In the beginning of the 1900's Freud attributed OCD to unresolve yet unconscious conflicts that one has from childhood.
He explains the meaning of his theory with a typical case of touching phobia.
As a child one has the great desire to touch (i.e. sexually oriented touching), this desire is met with prohibition against such touching. The external prohibition is accepted, since it also finds strengthening internal powers, but this acceptance does not succeed in abolishing the first instinct or desire itself. The desire is repressed into the unconsciousness. Now the unconscious conflict between repressed desire and prohibition continues as it is not dealt with because it has become unconscious. This then may develop into touching phobia in adulthood.
Today it is believed that the disorder has physical causes. Most researchers name an abnormality in Serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, as the main cause of OCD.
However it is not clear if this activity in the brain is indeed the cause and not the response to OCD. Serotonin is believed to be a regulator of anxiety and also connected with memory and sleep functions. Scientists believe that serotonin related OCD sufferers have blocks the reception of the chemical in the nervous system and thus it cannot realize its full potential. This theory is back up by the fact that many OCD sufferers enjoy the benefits of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) - a class of anti depressant medications that enable the availability of serotonin in other nerve cells.
Recent research also exposed a genetic mutation that may cause OCD.A mutation in the human serotonin transporter gene, hSERT, has been discovered to cause the disorder. Studies of twins have strengthened the belief that there is a hereditary factor in OCD. The environment can affect the way in which the anxiety manifests itself, but the genes are believed to play a roll in causing the anxiety in the first place. This research however is new and this theory is not yet established.
Brain imaging techniques have shown that OCD patients have different brain activity. This suggests that the disorder might be caused by impaired brain activity.
Compulsive behavior can manifest itself in daily tasks, such as repeatedly checking if the house is locked when one goes out, turning the lights on and off a certain number of times before exiting a room or washing hands at particular intervals during the day and altogether have a minor effect of one's daily life. Extra cleanliness that is cause by an obsession or fear of contamination is also a symptom for OCD that is overlooked many times. Every one may suffer from bad thoughts (like when we imagine hurting a child) but when these thoughts become repeated often and must be banished with other good thoughts or actions this is a clear symptom of OCD. Another symptom is over worrying about symmetry and needing for the body to feel even.
Many of the OCD sufferers do not seek treatment. This is partly because of the stigma associated with it and also because some to not recognize their behavior as wrong at all. Perhaps they grew up with someone who has OCD and thus think this behavior is normal, and perhaps despite the disorder they lead more or less normal lives.
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