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Spotlight on the Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum

written by: Debbie Roome • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/30/2011

While many people are familiar with OCD, they are not aware that there are a number of conditions on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. Read on to learn about these disorders.

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    What is the Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum

    The obsessive-compulsive spectrum encompasses a number of conditions. These disorders have obsessive-compulsive characteristics that are similar to OCD in a number of ways. An overview of some of these follow below.

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    Body Dysmorphic Disorder

    Body dysmorphic disorder is characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with a slight or imagined defect in one’s appearance. This frequently involves skin, hair or facial features. The resulting compulsion is played out by an excessive amount of looking in the mirror and trying to disguise the flaw by cosmetics or clothing. An inordinate amount of time is spent on getting ready to face the world each day.

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    Hypochondriasis

    This is defined as an obsessive fear of having a serious medical condition. Minor symptoms are blown out of proportion and even if a doctor offers reassurance, the person is not convinced. It is more common to fear contracting an illness than to believe one is already suffering from one. The obsessive fears about sickness are accompanied by compulsively checking for signs and symptoms and making unnecessary visits to doctors and health specialists.

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    Trichotillomania

    Trichotillomania is defined as the compulsive pulling out of hair. This can be from any part of the body and frequently results in visible hair loss. The person feels strong urges to pull out hair and these are followed by feelings of gratification and relief.

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    Compulsive Skin Picking

    This condition is part of the obsessive-compulsive spectrum and involves the repeated picking of skin until noticeable damage appears. It is often centered around the facial area and sufferers spend hours picking at pimples, moles and freckles as well as normal skin. Some find the action soothing while others find it stimulating.

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    Tourette’s Syndrome

    Tourette’s syndrome or Tourette’s disorder normally appears before the age of 18 and is characterized by tics. These can be further divided into motor tics and vocal tics. The tics are described as recurrent movements or sounds with no apparent cause. The tics happen many times in a day and often change in nature over a period of time. OCD symptoms are present in as many as 50% of Tourette's sufferers.

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    Eating Disorders

    Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are sometimes listed as part of the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. Both are characterized by an obsession with food and eating. The person restricts eating altogether or binges and purges. Both conditions have rituals which the sufferer performs to try and bring relief.

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    Olfactory Reference Syndrome

    This is diagnosed when a person has an obsession with body odor. They fear that their feet, armpits, breath and genital area are giving off offensive odors. This condition can cause significant distress and people often avoid social settings because of the fear of smelling bad.

    The obsessive-compulsive spectrum consists of a number of conditions that share some of the characteristics of OCD. Some people may suffer from more than one of the spectrum disorders and signs and symptoms often vary over time. It is important to seek help for any obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder as quality of life can be improved with medication and therapy.

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    References

    Mental Help: http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=38488&cn=1

    OCD Center of Los Angeles: http://www.ocdla.com/OCspectrumdisorders.html