Human health is paramount, and having sufficient knowledge concerning the health challenges that human beings face could come in handy in improving public health standards. However, while much emphasis goes into enhancing and protecting people’s physical health, little attention is accorded to mental health. This paper takes an in-depth look at Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It provides a brief overview of the health condition, what it entails, and its prevalence in the United States. Secondly, the paper highlights some of the symptoms associated with OCD. Moreover, the paper addresses the causes of OCD. While appreciating the absence of any exact cause of the chronic mental health condition, the paper highlights some of the risk factors that could increase individuals’ chances of falling victim to OCD. Further, the paper details OCD’s diagnosis and some things that health practitioners consider while diagnosing the condition. Finally, this piece documents the prevention and treatment options available for individuals suffering from OCD.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic mental health challenge that often causes repetitive obsession (sensation), compulsion or both. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 2 to 3% of the United States population suffers from this mental health condition (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). These figures might seem less threatening. However, OCD’s ability to interfere with victims’ daily activities and cause distress to individuals cannot be overlooked. People who contend with this mental health challenge experience extreme obsession or recurring unwanted thoughts, resulting in an extreme urge to repeat specific behavior. While victims of this condition might want to stop doing certain things, OCD makes them somewhat powerless and undermines their ability to resist. Additionally, while everyone has thoughts and habits that repeat sometimes, OCD victims contend with thoughts and actions that take up at least an hour a day (Fields, 2020). Moreover, their thoughts and actions are beyond their control, less enjoyable, and often interfere with their social life.
As the name suggests, OCD is characterized by two main symptoms: Obsession and compulsion. While many OCD victims experience obsession and compulsion, some experience one or the other. Unfortunately, the symptoms are not short-lived. They take up at least an hour of their time each day and make it increasingly difficult for them to engage in their daily activities. The mental health condition suppresses concentration and makes it hard for victims to pay attention and complete school or work tasks (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). Moreover, it is worth noting that while obsessive thought varies widely, some of their common themes include constant worries concerning dirt or illness, fear of harming others, and fear of offending others. Additionally, obsession sees victims have an unending desire of aligning their passions, explicit sexual thoughts, violent behaviors. It also makes people worry about misplacing things, questioning their sexual orientation, or worrying too much about their health, safety, and physical outlook (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). Unfortunately, these unwanted and intrusive thoughts keep recurring irrespective of how much one tries. Their persistence often results in the conviction that they could be true or could come true someday if one does not act to prevent them. On the other hand, the compulsive aspect of OCD involves washing hands, strictly organizing or aligning objects in a specific way, or repeating specific phrases (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). It also sees victims seek reassurance from others, buy several of the same items for no specific reason, and mentally go over their actions to ensure that such actions do not predispose others to any danger.
Causes and Risk Factors
Thus far, health experts have not established the exact cause of OCD. However, past studies suggest that stress could go a long way in worsening OCD symptoms. Additionally, scientific research suggests that this mental health condition is more common in women than in men (Fields, 2020). Further, the National Institute of Mental Health observes that OCD could result from how individuals’ brains respond to serotonin, which plays a critical role in regulating mood and sleep (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). As illustrated below, several other factors can increase individuals’ chances of developing OCD.
Risk factors for OCD
Stress and trauma are the first and probably most dominant risk factors for OCD are stress and trauma. Stress and trauma can significantly increase individuals’ chances of developing OCD, whether from school, work, or personal relationships. Additionally, they can worsen existing symptoms of OCD, thus making victims’ life difficult and somewhat unbearable. Secondly, personality traits such as challenges in dealing with uncertainty, a high sense of responsibility, or perfectionism could predispose individuals to OCD (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). Thirdly, people who contend with an abusive childhood or other traumatic experiences during childhood are more likely to develop OCD than their peers who have fond memories of their childhood and upbringing. Further, according to a recent study, traumatic brain injuries increase individuals’ risk of OCD. More importantly, a person’s family history could increase their chances of falling victim to the disease. However, it is worth noting that one can have a family history of OCD and other risk factors but still stay clear of the diseases. Additionally, approximately 90% of OCD victims contend with other mental illnesses (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). For instance, they suffer from anxiety, Tourette syndrome, major depressive disorder, eating disorder, and attention deficit disorder.
For about half of OCD victims, mental health condition symptoms first appear during childhood. However, considering that the symptoms are gradual, they are barely noticeable in their initial stages. With this in mind, many people leave with OCD for a long period before they think of seeking help. Additionally, many OCD victims leave in denial or fear sharing their mental health challenges with others for fear of being misunderstood. However, talking to mental health experts can facilitate OCD diagnosis. To this end, healthcare providers can help diagnose OCD by asking how much time they take to complete certain activities and why they feel obliged to complete various activities. Moreover, mental health experts can also ask potential victims to share their beliefs and thoughts concerning various social issues.
Prevention and Treatment
To date, there is no sure way of preventing OCD. However, health experts believe that once OCD is diagnosed, getting treatment as soon as possible could go a long way in preventing OCD from worsening and disrupting victims’ daily activities (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). Connecting with a health expert who has had sufficient experience treating OCD could be a good first step toward accessing helpful health intervention. Often, OCD treatment involves both psychotherapy and medication. Prescribing clinicians could recommend tricyclic antidepressants, memantine, or antipsychotics such as aripiprazole (Fields, 2020). As part of a combined approach to addressing OCD, mental health experts also recommend therapy. With this in mind, OCD victims are subjected to cognitive behavioral therapy, which plays an important role in helping them learn how to identify and correct unwanted or negative thoughts and behaviors (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). The therapeutic approach to OCD also exposes victims to exposure and response prevention (ERP), which entails gradual exposure to solutions that help victims learn to manage and overcome obsession without engaging in compulsive behaviours. Moreover, therapists leverage mindfulness-based cogitative therapy to address OCD since it helps patients cope with distress resulting from obsessive thoughts (Robinson & Raypole, 2021). Other end-result therapeutic approaches toward suppressing OCD include deep brain stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation, which involve stimulating certain brain areas after patients develop severe symptoms that do not improve with other treatments.
OCD is a serious mental health problem from the above illustrations. While it affects a relatively small population, its symptoms and adverse effects on victims’ health and wellbeing are far-reaching. Additionally, despite the absence of knowledge concerning its cause, factors such as family history, stress, abusive childhoods, personality traits, and brain injuries increase individuals’ chances of falling victim to chronic health conditions. However, as illustrated above, OCD is easily diagnosable. More importantly, medication and therapeutic intervention can help treat OCD and restore the victim’s health and wellbeing.
Fields, 2020 https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/obsessive-compulsive-disorder
Robinson & Raypole, 2021 https://www.healthline.com/health/ocd/social-signs