Updated: Jun 9
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder that is generally characterized by intrusive thoughts and fears (obsessions) that drive one to perform repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Symptoms of the disorder include; excessive washing/ avoidance of germs or getting contaminated, extreme hording and repeated checking. Unfortunately, in a bid to get rid of the thoughts, individuals suffering from this disorder worsen their condition.
Indeed there are a number of etiological theories surrounding the disorder. For instance, early etiological theories of a malady similar to the OCD emphasized the role of distorted religious experience. In fact, intrusive blasphemous images were closely associated with the work of Satan. However, around the 19th century, more emphasis was put on the role of doubt and indecisiveness. The 20th century, on the other hand, was greatly occupied by psychoanalytic theories which basically emphasized that obsession and compulsions were as a result of maladaptive responses to unresolved conflicts from early psychological development stages (Goodman, 2014).
It is believed that the development of the disorder is triggered by a combination of genetic, cognitive, behavioral/ lifestyle, familial and environmental factors. According to a National Institutes of Health funded study, the results from examined DNA suggested that OCD and other related disorders may be closely associated with a rare mutation of the human serotonin transporter gene (hSERT). Moreover, it suggests that a second variation in the same gene is common for people with severe OCD symptoms. In relation to this, twin studies have revealed that identical twins will most likely suffer from OCD if one of the twins has OCD compared to non identical twins.
Cognitive theorists also suggest that the disorder is triggered by misinterpretations of intrusive thoughts by those that are affected. Furthermore, they believe that everyone experiences these intrusive thoughts, but the difference between people with OCD and other people is that people with OCD tend to pay much attention to these thoughts to the extent that they attach them to catastrophic consequences and as a result, they begin to create compulsions in order to deal with their obsessions. On the other hand, learning theorists also believe that someone’s repeated behavior may as well contribute to OCD. This is further supported by the idea that environmental exposure to certain issues such as germs infection enhances the behavior of excessive hand washing in order to reduce the fears and eventually leads to OCD (Goodman, 2014).
As mentioned earlier, genetics play a big role in the development of OCD. Evidence-based research shows that OCD probands and their offspring tend to have a variation in their serotonin transporter region. Furthermore, biological explanations to OCD also expounds on the issue of serotonin and suggests that low levels of serotonin are a likely cause of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Based on the current understanding of the disorder, there are two major treatment options for the same. Firstly, there is the use of psychotherapy. Basically, this type of therapy exposes the affected individuals to their fears or obsessions and preventing responses by helping patients to slowly manage their obsessions. Secondly, there is the use of medications. Under this method, certain psychiatric medications are used to reduce the effects of OCD and a good example is antidepressants. However, a combinational approach of these methods works best in the treatment of the disorder (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2013).
Today, the diagnosis and research on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder have been simplified, thanks to advancement in technology. Researchers are now able to investigate activities of the human brain in the live state without exposing it to unnecessary risks or discomfort. Brain imaging is an example of such technique that has tremendously transformed research in this area. The technique offers a great way of recognizing and diagnosing the disorder as well as offering the required care to those affected (Goodman, 2014). Therefore, in as much as the disorder puts victims at risk of severe compulsions, early treatment can greatly help in alleviating its effects.
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Goodman, W. K. (2014, Oct 12). What Causes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? Retrieved Oct 13, 2014, from PsychCentral: http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-causes-obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/000506
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, Aug 9). Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Retrieved Oct 13, 2014, from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ocd/basics/treatment/con-20027827