Before discussing what it is, let us first dispel a common misconception that neat freaks and extremely organized people have about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Think of it this way. Saying “I’m so OCD” because you are fond of cleaning is like saying “I’m so diabetes” because you have a sweet tooth. It sounds unusual, but unfortunately, you can often hear people say the former. Strangely enough, no one goes around saying the latter.
OCD is a psychiatric condition often misunderstood by both the general public and health professionals. It is a long-lasting and chronic disorder characterized by uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors that one repeatedly does (compulsions) to alleviate the anxiety brought about by the obsessions. Imagine that you have a crippling fear of germ contamination. To minimize the fear, you resort to repeatedly washing your hands until they become chapped and sore.
People who have the disorder have little to no control over their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, which can be time-consuming and can severely affect their productivity at work and in school. It can also significantly affect their social lives. Many people with OCD are aware that these unwanted thoughts and actions are irrational. But this does not prevent them from being enslaved by their obsessions and compulsions. The psychologist, Natascha M. Santos, describes the experience as “your own brain lying to you, [but] being unable to resist its commands.”
The good news is that effective treatments exist. These include medicine that increases serotonin in the brain and behavioral therapy that aims to desensitize patients to their anxieties little by little. If you or someone you know needs to undergo therapy for OCD or other anxiety-related issues, search for licensed therapists in South Jordan and other nearby areas. Sometimes electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or surgery is required if the condition does not respond to other treatments.
What are its causes?
Currently, the cause of OCD is still unknown, but researchers have found some clues. According to their studies, it is a neurobiological disorder, which means that the brains of people with OCD are designed to behave in a certain way. Research has identified three brain regions that may hold the key to understanding the disorder better.
Here are the three regions:
- Caudate nucleus – voluntary movement
- Orbitofrontal cortex – cognitive planning and social behavior
- Cingulate gyrus – motivational and emotional responses
Aside from this, OCD is also associated with low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps in the regulation of impulse control, sleep, mood, and appetite. What is still unclear is whether the activity in these brain regions and serotonin levels are what causes OCD or whether these are merely symptoms of the root cause. Further research still needs to be conducted to arrive at a conclusion.
According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, it takes over ten years for the average person struggling with a mental illness to seek help. If you suffer from symptoms of OCD, you may be reluctant to seek help at first because of the stigma that surrounds mental health concerns. Arming yourself with information and receiving support and encouragement from people you trust can be the first step toward getting better.