Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is officially categorized as a mental disorder that is exemplified by recurring symptoms of persistent and intrusive thoughts that are deemed unwanted and often even senseless. These persistent thoughts reach the point of obsession and compulsion, meaning that the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sufferer cannot stop himself from engaging in ritualistic activities regardless of the desire to control them.
The onset of OCD usually occurs during the period characterized as young adulthood. The obsessions associated with the disorder are often fixated on such effects as inflicting harm upon another person or creature, dealing with failures in one’s personal life, or sexuality. Very often those who must deal with obsessions and compulsions over which they have no control begin to feel as they might be slipping into insanity. The compulsions can be wide-ranging, but almost all are typically situated within the psyche as a means to relieve anxiety.
OCD is often described as an exaggeration of the quite common ability of the human mind to force one to obsess upon a single idea. For instance, who hasn’t found themselves absently humming the same tune over and again in an almost compulsive manner? The difference between the normality of obsessive and compulsive desires like these is that when the average person become aware of the act they are capable of stopping themselves. The sufferers of obsessive compulsive disorder, by contrast, cannot. Though designated as a mental disorder, current research indicates that the cause of OCD is neurobiological. Neurons in the brain of those who suffer from OCD have been discovered to have a high sensitivity to serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that assists in the transmission of signals to the brain. Further research indicates that the trigger of OCD may be the onset of puberty, the effect of mental stress, and possibly even a genetic predisposition toward the development of the diseases.
Successful treatment of OCD in the past few years has been accomplished through the use of medication, specifically that family of antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The most popular drugs for treating OCD have been clomipramine (Anafranil), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and sertraline (Zoloft) (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Part I). These medications treatment the symptoms of OCD through altering the level of serotonin utilized in the transmission of signals to the brain. The success of treatment of OCD using medication has so far proven to be remarkable; studies indicate that anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of individuals seeking treatment with these drugs experience various levels of success. Used in addition the drug treatment, or often as a standalone treatment, is a therapy known as exposure-response prevention therapy in which the OCD patient is assisted by a trained therapist to learn how to gradually overcome the compulsive behaviors that obstruct the path to living a full and satisfying life . For instance, one of the most common effects of OCD, obsessive washing of the hands, can be treated using this therapy by actually being forced into situations where they must touch something that would normally spur the patient to wash his hands. The difference being that during the therapy session, the patient will not be allowed to wash his hands.
“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-Part I.” The Harvard Mental Health Letter 15(1998): 1-4.