At San Jose Behavioral Health, we believe education is an important first step in the effort to manage OCD. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of obsessive-compulsive disorder can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.
Learn About OCD
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental condition that occurs when an individual has frequent anxious thoughts that result in compulsive actions in an effort to calm the mind from these anxious thoughts. Although individuals with OCD are trying to relive anxiety, the anxiety and compulsive behaviors are frequent and unrelenting.
Individuals who develop OCD have relentless behaviors that usually involve repeating actions or words, counting, checking and rechecking items, or moving objects in a specific way. In many cases, these compulsions do not logically address an individual’s obsessions or fears.
With the right therapy and support, individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder can be treated. Even the most severe cases of diagnosed OCD can show significant improvement when effective treatment is provided.
According to statistics presented by the American Psychiatric Association, 1.2% of the population are diagnosed with OCD in the US in any given year. It is also notable that adult women have a higher risk of developing this disorder. On the other hand, the disorder is more common in men during childhood and adolescent ages.
People who struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder very understandably often struggle with anxiety as well. In fact, about 76% of the total number of individuals who have OCD are also diagnosed with one or more anxiety disorders.
Causes and Risk Factors of OCD
Environmental and genetic causes both contribute to an increased risk for developing OCD, although concrete causes are still being researched. Causes and risk factors include:
Genetic: Heredity is seen as both a cause and risk factor of OCD. If an individual has any relative with OCD, that person will be twice as likely to develop OCD. A direct relative or immediate family member with OCD leads to ten times the chance of developing OCD.
Environmental: Physical and sexual trauma or abuse during childhood increase chances for an individual to develop OCD. Autoimmune diseases and infections can also be a risk factor for OCD.
- Relatives and family members with mental health disorders
- Negative thoughts and emotions
- Physical or sexual abuse during childhood
- Traumatic life experiences
Signs and Symptoms of OCD
Like other mental health disorders, signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder may vary amongst individuals. Look out for the following signs and symptoms:
Symptoms of obsessions: When a person has obsessions, that person has persistent anxious and invasive thoughts that, in some cases, the individual knows are irrational. These obsessions stem from personal worries related to:
- Creating symmetry and balance
- Illnesses of others or oneself
- Germs, viruses, and pollution that can cause illness
- Terrifying events, trauma, or accidents
- Unwanted thoughts
- Practices and requirements based on religion or beliefs
Symptoms of compulsions: An individual develops compulsions as a way to control obsessions and anxiety related to the obsessions. However, compulsions may not always be logically related to obsessions. They may include:
- Counting and numbering things
- Frequent hand-washing or cleaning one’s body or environment
- Keeping items in order and organized
- Saying words out loud and repeating them
- Checking on light switches, burners, electric connections, and door locks repeatedly
- Avoiding situations, places, and certain scenarios
Effects of OCD
If a person with symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder does not receive treatment, this condition can persist and have negative implications, including:
- Problems with maintaining or excelling in professional life
- Difficulty in career or education
- Loss of financial capacity
- Physical signs such as skin wounds from too much washing
- Symptoms that worsen over time
- Conflicts and loss of relationship with friends and family
- Substance use and abuse
- Development or worsening mental health disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder may also develop other mental health disorders, too. Other mental health disorders that can co-occur with OCD include:
- ADHD or Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- Anxiety disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Depressive disorder
- Eating disorder
- Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Schizoaffective disorder
- Substance use disorder
- Tic disorder
- Tourette’s disorder
The mental disorders mentioned above may add to OCD complications. Nevertheless, with the right treatment, an individual can recover fully. Inpatient treatment is highly recommended for this type of mental health condition. Life without unrelenting anxiety is possible. New treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder can help.