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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that produces unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that cause a person to engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsion).
OCD can become severe enough to where the person’s compulsions interfere with their daily lives. People with OCD who attempt to ignore their compulsions tend to increase their distress and anxiety. Ultimately, a person with a condition is driven to compulsive behavior to ease their stress. Additionally, OCD is often linked to particular themes, such as an excessive fear of being contaminated by germs. To ease their fear of contamination, the person may constantly wash their hands until they’re sore and cracked. But why would a person continuously perform a task that could be unpleasant? What causes obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Types of OCD Symptoms
There are actually two kinds of OCD symptoms: obsession symptoms and compulsion symptoms. While obsessive-compulsive disorder usually includes both sets of symptoms, some people may only experience one or the other. Individuals with OCD often don’t realize their obsessions and compulsions are excessive or unreasonable. In their mind, if they don’t perform this task or behavior, something bad will happen. Even if they know this isn’t true, they’ll still behave the same way. Constantly giving in to certain obsessions and compulsions can take up a great deal of time and interrupt their daily routine.
OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent, and unwanted thoughts that include urges or images that are intrusive, disturbing, or anxiety-inducing. These obsessions most often occur when you’re trying to concentrate or do something.
Common OCD obsession symptoms include:
- Fear of contamination or dirt
- Difficulties coping with uncertainty or lack of control
- Needing things to be orderly, symmetrical, and organized
- Aggressive or terrifying thoughts about hurting yourself or others
- Unwanted thoughts that are aggressive, sexual, or religious
OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel as if you have to perform. These behaviors are done to reduce anxiety and “prevent” something bad from happening. However, engaging in these compulsions usually only provides temporary relief.
People who portray compulsion symptoms may create certain rules or rituals to help control their anxiety when they don’t have obsessive thoughts. Compulsions are often excessive, unnecessary, and unrelated to the issue the person’s trying to fix.
Common compulsions include:
- Washing and cleaning
- Checking (time, appliances to make sure they’re off, lights, phone, etc.)
- Following a strict routine
- Demanding and requiring reassurance
Symptoms of OCD can worsen over time, especially if you don’t receive OCD treatment. The effects of OCD often include relationship problems, financial issues, difficulty maintaining employment, physical evidence of compulsive behaviors (like damaged skin from frequent washing), and more. If you or someone you know has OCD, Banyan Mental Health can help.
What Causes OCD in The Brain?
Understanding what can cause OCD is crucial to identifying this condition in yourself and others and finding the appropriate treatment. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder causes are not fully understood. However, there are several theories.
Below are some common obsessive-compulsive disorder causes:
- Learned behaviors that are associated with anxiety
- Genetics (OCD is believed to be hereditary)
- Chemical, structural, and functional abnormalities in the brain
- Distorted beliefs that reinforce and maintain OCD symptoms
The biological causes of OCD and the possibility of it being hereditary have been shown in several studies but have yet to be confirmed. Genes only appear to be partly responsible for OCD. As with other mental disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder can be caused by a combination of things, from a family history of mental illness to learned behaviors. While what causes obsessive-compulsive disorder varies, one thing is for certain: without mental health treatment, recovery can be difficult.