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OCD-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It is possible that you suffer from OCD-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder if you exhibit a fear of dirt or contamination by germs, fear of causing harm to another person, fear of making a mistake, fear of embarrassment or behaving in a socially unacceptable manner, fear of thinking evil thoughts, the need for order, symmetry or exactness or excessive doubt and the need for constant reassurance.  Some of the common compulsions of OCD are repeatedly bathing, showering or washing your hands, refusing to shake hands or touch doorknobs, repeatedly checking things such as locks or stoves, constant counting, mentally or aloud while performing routine tasks, constantly arranging things in a certain way, eating foods in a specific order, being stuck on words, images or thoughts, usually disturbing that won’t go away and interfere with sleep, repeating specific words or phrases, needing to perform tasks a certain number of times or collecting or hoarding items of no apparent value.

While the cause of OCD is not fully understood studies indicate that a combination of biological and environmental factors are involved in this mental health issue.  The brain is complex, containing billions of nerve cells called neurons.  The neurons communicate through electrical signals.  Chemicals called neurotransmitters help move these electrical messages from neuron to neuron.  Research indicates that low levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin may contribute to the development of OCD.  There is evidence that a serotonin imbalance may be passed from parents to children.  The tendency to develop OCD may be inherited.

Some environmental stressors that can trigger OCD include abuse, changes in living situations, illness, death of a loved one, work or school related changes or problems and relationship issues.  OCD afflicts approximately 3.3 million adults and 1 million children in the United States. 

There are no laboratory tests to diagnose OCD.  The disorder is diagnosed through an assessment of the patient’s symptoms and the amount of time that an individual spends performing his or her ritual behaviors.  OCD is treated through therapy and medications which often include use of the SSRI’s (selective serotonin uptake inhibitor) which include Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac.  In severe cases ECT (electroconvulsive therapy may be used where electrodes are placed to the patient’s head and a series of electric shocks are delivered to the brain which induces seizure.  The seizures cause the release of neurotransmitters to the brain.  In most cases OCD can be successfully treated with medication and therapy.  Ongoing treatment heightens the success for most sufferers who are able to return to normal or near normal functioning.  OCD cannot be prevented but early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the time an individual spends suffering from the condition.  If you suspect that you may be suffering from this mental health issue seek competent professional help from a physician or therapist.