Southern Illinois University EPSY 412
July 25, 2011
Often Overlooked, What’s Causing Adolescent Compulsive Behavior?
If you are constantly washing your hands, counting your steps, or impulsively repeating tasks in life, perhaps you are always counting things or checking things. If these actions are taking over your life or constantly occupying your mind, perhaps you have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD may not be as rare as originally thought. All children have worries and doubts, but children with OCD often can't stop worrying, no matter how much they want to. And those worries frequently force them to behave in certain ways over and over again. OCD is an anxiety disorder that is described as someone with obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behavior. People with OCD are caught up in repetitive behavior and thoughts that they cannot stop. Obsession is often unwanted, recurrent, and disturbing thoughts that a person cannot stop and can result in severe anxiety. Impulses are the result of the obsession. These are repetitive, ritualized behaviors done to alleviate the anxiety caused by the obsession. The most common obsessions are fear of contamination, fear of causing harm to another, fear of making a mistake, fear of behaving in a socially unacceptable manner, need for symmetry or exactness, and excessive doubt. The most common compulsions are cleaning, washing, checking, arranging, organizing, collecting, hoarding, and counting or repeating.
Children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder become preoccupied with whether something could be harmful, dangerous, wrong, or dirty. With OCD, upsetting or scary thoughts or images (called obsessions), pop into a person's mind and are hard to shake. Children with OCD may also worry about things being out of "order" or not "just right." They may worry about losing "useless" items, sometimes feeling the need to collect these items.
Someone with OCD feels strong urges to do certain things repeatedly — called rituals or compulsions — in order to banish the scary thoughts, ward off something dreaded, or make extra sure that things are safe or clean or right. Children may have a difficult time explaining a reason for their rituals and say they do them "just because." But in general, by doing a ritual, someone with OCD is trying to feel absolutely certain that something bad won't happen. Think of OCD as an "overactive alarm system." The rise in anxiety or worry is so strong that a child feels like he or she must perform the task or dwell on the thought, over and over again, to the point where it affects everyday life. Most children with OCD realize that they really don't have to repeat the behaviors over and over again, but the anxiety can be so great that they feel that repetition is "required" to neutralize the uncomfortable feeling. And often the behavior does decrease the anxiety- but only temporarily. In the long run, the rituals only worsen OCD severity and prompt the obsessions to return. Doctors and scientists don't know exactly what causes OCD, although recent research has led to a better understanding of OCD and its potential causes. Experts believe OCD is related to levels of a normal chemical in the brain called serotonin. When the proper flow of serotonin is blocked, the brain's "alarm system" overreacts and misinterprets information. Danger messages are mistakenly triggered like "false alarms." Instead of the brain filtering out these unnecessary thoughts, the mind dwells on them — and the person experiences unrealistic fear and doubt. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic and potentially disabling neuropsychiatric condition, which often emerges during late childhood or early adolescence. This disorder is characterized by recurrent obsessions and/or compulsions which are deemed to be...