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Understanding OCD - A Quick Fact Sheet

written by: Jacqueline Chinappi • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 7/29/2010

An Obsessive Compulsive Disorder fact sheet is needed to help recognize symptoms, causes, and treatments of OCD. The fact sheet will also provide useful information such as prevalence of OCD and differential diagnosis.

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    Introduction:

    The Obsessive Compulsive Disorder fact sheet will be helpful when trying to not only recognize indications of the disorder but also to review treatment options such as medication or therapeutic interventions.

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    Common Symptoms:

    Symptoms of OCD will revolve mostly around obsessions and compulsions.

    • Obsessions are thoughts or inclinations which are constant and cause distress and anxiety in the individual’s life. These obsessions are unrealistic in nature and do not relate to normal worries in everyday life.
    • Compulsions are behaviors which are repeated. Examples are hand washing or checking on items. Compulsions can also be continuous mental acts such as with continuous praying or repetitive counting. The individual tries to use these compulsions to help unrealistically relieve a stressful situation.
    • These obsessions and compulsions will normally get in the way of setting such as school, work, or social environments.
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    Causes and Theories:

    While there is no definite known cause of OCD, there are several theories as to why it occurs.

    • Nature versus Nurture: Some have theorized that the body’s own chemistry plays a role in OCD diagnosis, and have looked at the neurotransmitter such as serotonin. There have been studies showing that individuals diagnosed with OCD have lower levels of serotonin. Others have theorized that settings and environments play a big influence and that those diagnosed with OCD have learned habits and behaviors.
    • Strep Throat: One very contentious theory is that a child diagnosed with OCD has developed the disorder from a recent bout of group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal pharyngitis or strep throat. More research is needed to show empirical evidence of this theory.
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    Treatment:

    Medication:

    Treatment options can come in medicated and non-medicated forms. Medicated forms normally come as an antidepressant. Some antidepressants can help raise levels of serotonin in the body, which then helps lower OCD compulsions and obsessions. Other kinds of medications which can help lower the rate of obsession and compulsions include:

    • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
    • Fluvoxamine
    • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
    • Paroxetine (Paxil)
    • Sertraline (Zoloft)

    (Mayo Clinic, 2008)

    Therapeutic Interventions:

    Non-medicated treatment comes in the form of therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT therapy helps to improve unhealthy thought patterns, such as obsessions. The therapist works with the patient to improve the thought patterns which will then lead to healthier behaviors, such as lowering compulsions.

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    Need To Know:

    Some need to know basics for the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder fact sheet include prevalence, comorbidity, and differential diagnosis.

    • Research has shown that 2-3% of the American population have been diagnosed with OCD, meaning approximately 5-7 million Americans suffer from OCD. (Brynes, 2009)
    • Comorbidity is when more than one mental illness is diagnosed. Comorbid disorders which can occur alongside OCD include ADHD and Asperger’s Disorder.
    • Differential diagnosis means that a disorder can be mistaken for another disorder. Some differential diagnoses for OCD include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depressive Disorders, and Hypochondriasis.

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    References:

    Brynes, G. (2009). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Adults. Retrieved from, http://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/ocd-center/ocd-obsessive-compulsive-disorder-in-adults/menu-id-60/.

    Mayo Clinic. (2008). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved from, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/DS00189.