By a show of hands, how many of you know someone who has asthma? How many of you know someone who has diabetes? Now how many of you know someone who has obsessive-compulsive disorder? Not many. Yet OCD is diagnosed nearly as often as asthma and diabetes. It’s estimated that 2.2 million American adults have obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is slightly more than the number of people who reside in Houston, Texas, the 4th largest city in the country. And according to the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, people go an average of 17 years between the time OCD symptoms begin and the time they begin treatment. As someone who has OCD, I’d like to talk to you about what obsessive-compulsive disorder is, what some common symptoms are, what causes OCD, and most importantly, what are some of the methods used to treat it.
First, let’s learn what OCD is.
OCD is a serious disorder of the brain and behavior with a number of symptoms. As defined by the National Institute of Mental Health, obsessive-compulsive disorder is “characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions).” So what does this mean? Imagine a thought in your head. This thought gets replayed over and over again. It’s like an avalanche, and the only way to get rid of this thought is to immerse yourself in some type of repetitive behavior. The most common behavior, or symptom is washing of the hands over and over. This helps to alleviate the anxiety caused by the thought that’s stuck in your head. Some other common symptoms include the need to repeatedly check things, such as a door lock or light switch. Also, an inability to throw away anything. This is commonly referred to as hoarding. These “rituals” can become very time consuming. A 2001 study conducted in 19 clinics right here in northern California determined the severity of symptoms in patients having new-onset OCD. Now as you can see from this illustration, 38% had mild symptoms...
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