Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Theories and Treatment

Did you know according to the National Institutes of Health 1.2% of the world's population has been diagnosed with OCD, so every 1,000 people, 12 of them have OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder in which a person has certain thoughts repeatedly or feels the need to repeat routines in which stress can form. Many people see OCD as some cliché that you need everything organized but it is so much more than that. OCD comes with some hard to overcome symptoms and many long term effects, although there is a treatment for this disorder, people should take OCD more seriously.

What does OCD stand for? OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It’s called this because a person who is diagnosed with this disorder has obsessive thoughts or experiences. These obsessive thoughts may occur “singly, or both may appear in sequence.” (Britannica Editors)The word compulsive is also a part of the acronym because the people diagnosed would have compulsive thoughts as well. For those who don’t know compulsive means an irresistible urge. So compulsive thoughts are irresistible urges that can go against the body's wishes. OCD is a mental disorder so all these compulsive and obsessive thoughts are your brain's way of having anxiety.

Now, there are four types of OCD. MedCircle states the four types of OCD are “contamination, perfection, doubt/harm, and forbidden thoughts.” To be more in-depth contamination would be considered the fear of contamination or germs. Examples of this would be constantly sterilizing or doing excessive cleaning, frequently changing your clothes, and excessively washing your hands. Obsessions on symmetry and balance would be considered perfection, the second type of OCD. Some examples of perfection are needing items to be placed a certain way, an extreme need for organizing, constantly arranging items, and or excessive hoarding or having an attachment to items. The third type of OCD is “Forbidden or taboo thoughts involving things like sex or religious practices”(Medcircle). An example of this would be having persistent thoughts that are usually sex or religion related. Mind you people who have been diagnosed have no control whatsoever over the obsessive thoughts and compulsions they receive. And the fourth type of OCD is having obsessive thoughts of aggression and or impulsivity towards self or others. Examples of this would be having urges to hurt others around themselves or harming themselves, constant checking and rechecking, and doubting themselves.

Many symptoms come with OCD that includes both obsessions and compulsions. Some compulsive symptoms include repeatedly washing hands, checking on loved ones frequently, tapping and counting behaviors, hoarding, and checking things constantly to see whether they are open or on. Some obsessive symptoms are having doubts, thinking of hurting others, being a germaphobe, and thinking about religious or sexual things. 

According to the Pacific Grove Hospital, “OCD is a treatable mental disorder, many people do not receive the proper diagnosis or seek treatment” which can cause more long term effects.  Some long term effects include the inability to work or attend school, having poor relationship skills, social isolation, being financially unstable, hoarding, substance abuse, and having suicidal thoughts.

Now there are treatments to help people diagnosed with OCD. According to the International OCD Foundation “The most effective treatments for OCD are Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and/or medication.” Cognitive Behavior Therapy includes doing a type of treatment named Exposure and Response Prevention. Exposure and Response Prevention takes place with a psychologist or a mental health counselor. If you are not doing ERP, taking a medication called serotonin reuptake inhibitors which should be prescribed by a listed medical professional might help the patient's condition. It is very rare that these forms of treatment don’t work because “70% of people will benefit from ERP and/or medication for their OCD.” (Abramowitz)

You might be wondering if OCD is inherited or how you get this disorder, well reporters at the Insider state that OCD is partially inherited from the child’s parents. I say it is partially inherited because the Psychiatric Clinics of North America did a study that shows OCD is only 48% genetic amongst parents to the child. No one is really sure on how OCD is acquired. Some families show that when the child has OCD either a sibling or parent has some form of a phobia or an anxiety disorder, while in some families it shows no relation to the parents or the siblings. Director of Yale OCD Research Clinic, Christopher Pittenger says “Genetics contribute to overall risk, but they do not completely determine whether or not an individual is going to develop the disorder” So it goes to make sure that people and medical professionals aren’t sure of the cause. Some also say that the compulsions are acquired over time. What do you think?

Overall people have entirely underestimated what OCD is. OCD has many symptoms that can cause long term effects. OCD isn’t just being super organized, the four types of OCD are obsessing with cleaning, doubting or wanting to harm others or yourself, having forbidden thoughts they have no control over, and needing to constantly organize.  OCD can have a huge impact on someone's life, so never assume that you know what OCD is.


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