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Introduction and Overview
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by the recurrent occurrence of intrusive and upsetting thoughts, images or fears (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the essential feature of obsessive-compulsive disorder are recurrent obsessions and compulsions, which are either time consuming or cause distress or significant impairment.
Obsessions are defined as persistent, intrusive and inappropriate thoughts, images, impulses, and ideas that cause anxiety or distress. These obsessions are not excessive worries about real-life problems, but rather, are unrelated to normal concerns, such as fear of contamination, repeated doubts, the need of having things in a particular order, aggressive or horrific impulses, or sexual imagery. The content of the obsessions, reported by individuals as senseless and unreasonable, triggers the urge to 'put them right' or neutralise them. Neutralizing behaviors can either take the form of overt actions such as excessive washing, cleaning, checking, touching, arranging, ordering, or hoarding, or cognitive behaviors such as thinking 'good thoughts', praying, counting, or repeating words silently when obsessive intrusions occur. These neutralizing behaviors are performed repetitively with the goal of preventing or reducing the anxiety or distress, and they usually represent the main reason individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder seek treatment.
Individuals that fear contamination wash their hands until the skin is raw; individuals that obsess whether they locked the door or turned off the gas stove return to check the door knob or stove every few minutes; individuals with distressful thoughts may find relief in counting to 10 backward and forward for 100 times each time they have the thought. These stereotypical acts (or rituals) can be highly elaborate and time consuming without the individual being able to explain why they are doing them. In individuals with OCD, their rituals are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralise.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is not the same thing as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). A person is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCDP) occurs when they display "...a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency."
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is the fourth most common neuropsychiatric condition in the United States. Every year, obsessive-compulsive disorder affects 2.2 million American adults age 18 to 54 and 1 million children and adolescents. One in 40 adults and one in 200 children suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder at some point in their life. World-wide, OCD prevalence is approximately 2 percent. It affects women and men equally.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder usually occurs during teenage or early adulthood years, but one-third of the adults develop their first symptoms at young ages. However, suffering from OCD at a young age leads to severe, long-lasting problems in the child's life and later during adulthood.
Unfortunately, those that suffer from OCD tend to keep their condition secret rather than seeking treatment.
Article by Alina Morrow
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