One step forward, two steps back, then walk forward again. Comb hair with 17 strokes, no more and no fewer. The patterns of life for millions. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, and it can have serious ramifications for a healthy and happy life.
One step forward, two steps back, then walk forward again. Comb hair with 17 strokes, no more and no fewer. The patterns of life for millions. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, and it can have serious ramifications for a healthy and happy life. OCD what do you know, T or F?
1. It is a depression disorder. F
2. It affects about 2% of Americans. T
3. Average age of onset is 19 years old. T
OCD can be diagnosed very early or late in life. The peak age for diagnosis is between ages 18-44 years. The average age of onset is 19 years old. This may be related to the major life changes which occur immediately after high school.
OCD is an anxiety disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is:
"characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Intrusive thoughts often lead to ritualistic behaviors. Typically a person with OCD recognizes that his/her obsessions are not positive or productive and may initially try to ignore the nagging thoughts. This often causes heightened anxiety and a stronger desire to resist the obsession. Often, however, the obsession is so strong that the person afflicted with OCD performs the repetitive behavior (compulsion) to release the anxiety, at least temporarily. This is a sort of pop-off valve, if you will. The problem is the cycle then repeats itself."
The typical symptoms of OCD include those attributed to both obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions may include fear of contamination, hypersexual thoughts and having items or daily life activities in an orderly, categorized manner. The person may recurrent doubts about having put things in order such as turning off an iron or locking a door. There may be recurrent fears of harming another or being contaminated, which may lead to the compulsion of repetitive hand-washing.
Compulsions have a central theme of orderliness. This leads to what most people recognize as characteristic behaviors including repeatedly checking locks and stoves and arranging can goods or desk supplies in a very particular pattern.
Although these obsessions and compulsions may make for some memorable movie scenes, think Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets," for the real person with OCD and their loved ones, the disorder can range from a minor inconvenience or destroy lives.
OCD is considered to be a life-long disorder. The causes are varied including the person’s own physiology, brain serotonin levels and environment. Having a parent or sibling with OCD is a known risk factor. Stressful life events may trigger OCD behaviors but they are not thought, by themselves, to actually cause OCD.
Treatment is centered around psychotherapy to target specific obsessions and compulsions and medication to decrease anxiety. Drugs which increase serotonin levels are often prescribed with good success.
OCD can mask itself as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A thorough evaluation is critical in determining the correct diagnosis and proper treatment. Untreated or improperly treated OCD can lead to the person feeling more desperate and despaired as symptoms affect relationships, employment and quality of life. This can lead to depression, eating disorders and other self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.
Although adults may recognize OCD behaviors in themselves or family members and seek medical care, children may be overlooked. If you think your child may be showing symptoms of OCD talk to his/her pediatrician or family medicine physician. The longer the wait to proper care, the more threatening OCD can be to success in school and with normal behavioral development. The National Institutes of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov, has information about OCD and resources for patients and their families.
Answers: 1. F; 2. T; 3. F.
Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.