Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions. It is prevalent in more than one per cent of the population worldwide and can have an onset at any time starting from preschool to adulthood.
Obsessions – Thoughts, images or urges that occur again and again and is out of the person’s control – The person does not want to think about these and finds them disturbing – The person usually is aware that his urges don’t make sense and are unreasonable or excessive – They make the person feel uncomfortable, fearful, doubtful and brings about a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is ‘just right’
Compulsions – Repetitive behaviours or thoughts that a person engages in to neutralise, counteract or make their obsessions go away – They rely on the compulsion as a temporary escape – They try to avoid situations that trigger their obsessions. These obsessions and/or compulsions take a lot of time (over one hour per day) and get in the way of the person’s activities (personal grooming, socialising, working, studying, etc).
There is no single factor that leads to OCD. It is the interplay of various genetic, biological and psycho-social factors which lead to its precipitation. While it is often seen to run in families, biologically, serotonin is one of the main neurotransmitters that is implicated in its causation. Furthermore, many psychological and social stressors could also serve as triggers.
TREATMENT With mounting evidence that obsessive compulsive disorder is largely determined by biological factors, medication in combination with psychological counselling has been found to be effective in significantly reducing the symptoms of patients with obsessive compulsive disorder. While the medication help regulate the neurotransmitters associated with the disorder, psychological counseling plays a significant role in helping the person manage the cognitive and behavioural manifestations of the obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessive Complusion Disorder is a treatable illness and professional help is irreplaceable. The person suffering is often ridiculed for a lack of self control and may even be snubbed by others. Some people may choose to hide their symptoms, in the fear of embarrassment or stigma. It is important to create awareness about the disorder, so that identification becomes easier, and such individuals can be helped in relieving their distress. It is imperative to encourage a supportive environment for the earliest identification and adequate psychiatric and psychological intervention.