Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition. People suffering from OCD have thoughts and fears that can contribute to compulsive and ritualistic behaviors. You may find someone you love constantly counting on their fingers or washing their hands repeatedly. They may check their house before leaving 20 times to make sure all the doors are locked for example.
There are millions of people affected, approximately 2 – 3 % of the worldwide population.
Symptoms of OCD: The primary symptoms of OCD are obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are defined as persistent, uncontrollable thoughts or images that cause anxiety or distress. Examples of common obsessions include:
- Fear of contamination or germs
- Need for symmetry or order
- Unacceptable aggressive or sexual thoughts
- Intrusive thoughts of harming oneself or others
Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that one feels compelled to perform in response to an obsession. Common compulsions include:
- Excessive cleaning or hand-washing
- Counting or repeating certain phrases
- Checking locks or appliances repeatedly
- Arranging objects in a specific order
Causes of OCD: The exact cause of OCD is unknown, but there are several factors that may contribute to its development, including genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. Studies have shown that people with OCD may have imbalances in certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate. Additionally, childhood trauma or abuse, infections, and certain autoimmune disorders have also been linked to OCD.
Diagnosis of OCD: OCD is diagnosed based on a thorough assessment of symptoms by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. The diagnosis involves a physical examination to rule out any underlying medical conditions and a psychological evaluation to assess the severity and impact of symptoms. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) criteria are used to diagnose OCD.
Treatment of OCD: OCD can be treated with a combination of medication, therapy, and self-help strategies. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used medications for OCD. They work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain and reducing anxiety symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is also a commonly used treatment approach for OCD. CBT involves exposure and response prevention (ERP), which involves gradually exposing the individual to their obsessions and preventing them from performing compulsive behaviors. Other self-help strategies include stress reduction techniques, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Certain medications may help alleviate symptoms of OCD. The most typical ones include antidepressants like SSRIs.
SSRI’s for OCD
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants. They work on the brain to inhibit the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is thought to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. This neurotransmitter is involved with happiness and mood. It has a calming effect on the mind and body.
fluoxetine / Prozac
sertraline / Zoloft
citalopram / Celexa
escitalopram / Lexapro
paroxetine / Paxil
fluvoxamine / Luvox
Comes with Side Effects
Common side effects of SSRIs include nausea, insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, akathisia, restlessness, tremors and shaky limbs, as well as sexual problems.
One downfall with some medications like SSRIs is they can actually worsen OCD symptoms in some patients. This happened to me personally, I didn’t have OCD before starting SSRIs, but soon after starting, I developed the need to constantly and repeatedly count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, + in my head over and over, daily.
This is of course rare, but something to consider when trying a needed medication for the first time. Always consult your doctor when wanting to start or stop a medication or if side effects occur. You may consult with a physician now at mytelemedicine.
If you feel relief and little to no side effects – Great! There is no need for you to suffer any longer.
You may also want to check out my blog section or the alternative mental health pages for some ideas of remedies and natural approaches to healing OCD.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
Abramowitz, J. S., Taylor, S., & McKay, D. (2009). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Lancet, 374(9688), 491-499.
Ruscio, A. M., Stein, D. J., Chiu, W. T., & Kessler, R. C. (2010). The epidemiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Molecular psychiatry, 15(1), 53-63.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml