obsessive compulsive disorder treatment

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): What It Is, Its Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD is a mental health problem in which a person has unwanted and repeated thoughts and sensations (obsessions). It also urges the sufferer to repeat something multiple times (compulsions). There are some individuals who can have both obsessions and compulsions.

If you ask what is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder about? Then you should know that it does not include habits like biting nails or having negative thoughts.

An excellent example of obsessive thoughts is that specific colors or numbers are either good or bad. And a good example of compulsive habits is washing hands a certain number of times after coming into contact with something that might be unclean.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD worsens because you may think that you do not need to have these obsessions and compulsions, but you simply cannot prevent having them.

Every single one of us has thoughts or habits that we repeat at certain times. However, those who suffer from OCD have thoughts and habits that:

  • They do not enjoy.
  • Takes up a significant amount of time every day.
  • They cannot control.
  • Interferes with their personal, work, social, and other aspects of life.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD affects each person differently. It may include the following:

  • Extreme concern with checking:

An individual with this mental disorder feels the need to repeatedly check for problems, including:

  • Checking alarms, taps, and appliances to prevent damage, leaks, or fire.
  • Checking themselves for illness.
  • Making sure of the authenticity of memories.
  • Checking e-mails repeatedly due to fear of making a mistake or offending the person who is going to receive the mail.
  • Fear of contamination:

There are some people with OCD who have the overwhelming urge to continuously wash as they fear that they might have touched something contaminated. This leads to:

  • Excessive washing of hands and brushing of teeth.
  • Cleaning the bathroom, kitchen, and other sections of the house repeatedly.
  • Staying away from crowds due to fear of contracting germs.

In some instances, a person might also get a sense of contamination if they feel that someone has criticised or mistreated them. They might try to get rid of this feeling by washing.

  • Intrusive thoughts:

A person with this type of OCD feels unable to prevent unwanted and intrusive thoughts that involve subjects like violence, suicide, causing harm to others, etc. It also includes repeated and intrusive sexual and religious or superstitious thoughts.

  • Hoarding:

This type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder makes it extremely difficult for those suffering from this mental health disorder to throw away used or unnecessary items.

  • Orderliness and symmetry:

This involves a person feeling the need to arrange objects in a certain way so as to prevent discomfort. Repeatedly rearranging books on the book-shelf is an excellent example of this.


To know about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms, you should first understand that a person can have only obsession or only compulsion symptoms, even though OCD includes both compulsions and obsessions.

Symptoms of obsession:

  • Fear of contamination.
  • Having doubts or finding it difficult to tolerate uncertainty.
  • Making sure things in order.
  • Aggressive thoughts of losing control and harming others or yourself.
  • Obsessive thoughts about aggression, sexual, or religious subjects.

Symptoms of compulsion:

  • Washing and cleaning.
  • Looking for reassurance.
  • Sticking to a strict routine.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder generally starts in the teens or the young adult years. However, it can also begin in childhood as well. The symptoms begin gradually and go on to vary in severity throughout a person’s life.

The types of compulsions and obsessions also change with time. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms can worsen when you go through a stressful time.

This mental disorder is considered to exist lifelong, and the symptoms discussed above can be mild to moderate or can even be so severe that it can disrupt your everyday life.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder causes have not yet been understood completely. But, there are certain theories that include:

  • Genetics

Although OCD might have a genetic component, there are no specific genes that have been identified.

  • Biology

Some theories suggest OCD may result from changes in your body’s natural chemistry or your brain functions.

  • Learning

One of the interesting facts about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is that compulsive habits and obsessiveness can be learned by observing family members or slowly and gradually developed over time.


Following are some of the risk factors that might increase the chances of developing OCD:

  • Stressful events in life

Your risk increases manifold if you have experienced a stressful or traumatic event in your life. The reaction might trigger intrusive thoughts and emotional distress that characterizes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

  • Family history

If you belong to a family where your parents or any other member of your family has this disorder, your risk of developing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD increases as well.

  • Other mental health issues

OCD might also be related to other mental health issues like anxiety and depression and even substance abuse, like drugs.


Only a trained and certified mental health expert can make a proper diagnosis of OCD. It includes discussing your thoughts, symptoms, feelings, and patterns of behavior to figure out whether you have obsessions and compulsions that interfere with the quality of your life. In some instances, your permission might be taken to speak with your family or friends.

Certain physical exams can also be done to rule out any other cause for the symptoms and also to check for related complications.


There is no Obsessive Compulsive Disorder treatment. However, you can manage the way your symptoms affect your life through medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

Treatments for OCD include the following:

  • Psychotherapy

CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can come in handy when it comes to changing your thought patterns. In a treatment referred to as exposure and response prevention, your mental health expert will expose you to a stressful situation designed to set off anxiety and compulsions. This way, over a certain period, you will learn to manage your OCD-related thoughts and actions.

  • Relaxation techniques

There are methods of relaxation, which include the likes of Yoga and meditation, that can really be useful to reduce the symptoms.

  • Medication

SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are psychiatric drugs that are used for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder treatment and have proven to help in controlling compulsions and obsessions. Usually, these medicines take 2-4 months to kick in.

The most common ones include citalopram, sertraline, fluoxetine, paroxetine, Escitalopram, and fluvoxamine. In case you still have the symptoms, your mental health expert might prescribe certain antipsychotics like risperidone or aripiprazole.

  • Neuromodulation

There are instances when medication and therapy do not make any significant difference. Under such circumstances, your doctor might speak with you about devices that can change the electrical activity in certain areas of your brain. One of them is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, which uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells. It is completely non-invasive and is held above your head so that it can induce the magnetic fields and target areas of the brain that regulates the symptoms of OCD.


The symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can present themselves in various ways, and it is also possible to have OCD with other mental health disorders like anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.

However, whatever the symptoms might be, getting treatment can help reduce the symptoms and improve your quality of life. It will not always be easy, as therapy might trigger feelings of distress and anxiety. But have faith in your treatment plan and stick to it.

If you feel that therapy is not working or the side-effects of medication are too much, talk to your mental health expert. You need to try out different approaches before you find the one that produces the best results.

Working with a therapist who is compassionate and understands your symptoms is also important when it comes to getting relief from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

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