OCD OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER
OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a psychiatric disorder; more specifically, it is an anxiety disorder. OCD is manifested in a variety of forms, but it is most commonly characterized by a subject's obsessive, distressing, intrusive thoughts and related compulsions (tasks or rituals) which attempt to neutralize the obsessions.
The phrase "obsessive-compulsive" has worked its way into the wider English lexicon, and is often used in an offhand manner to describe someone who is meticulous or absorbed in a cause. Such casual references should not be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder; see clinomorphism. It is also important to distinguish OCD from other types of anxiety, including the routine tension and stress that appear throughout life. A person who shows signs of infatuation or fixation with a subject/object, or displays traits such as perfectionism, does not necessarily have OCD, a specific and well-defined condition.
Repeated patterns of arranging
may be a sign of OCD
To be diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, one must have either obsessions or compulsions alone, or obsessions and compulsions, according to the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria. The Quick Reference to the diagnostic criteria from DSM-IV-TR (2000) describes these obsessions and compulsions:
Obsessions are defined by:
Compulsions are defined by:
In addition to these criteria, at some point during the course of the disorder, the sufferer must realize that his/her obsessions or compulsions are unreasonable or excessive. Moreover, the obsessions or compulsions must be time consuming (taking up more than one hour per day), cause distress, or cause impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning (Quick Reference from DSM-IV-TR, 2000). OCD often causes feelings similar to that of depression.
Symptoms and prevalence
Modern research has revealed that OCD is much more common than previously thought. An estimated 1 in 50 adolescents and adults are thought to have OCD. However, because of the condition's personal nature, and the lingering stigma that surrounds it, there may be many unaccounted-for OCD sufferers, and the actual percentages could be even higher.
The typical OCD sufferer performs tasks (or compulsions) to seek relief from obsession-related anxiety. To others, these tasks may appear odd and unnecessary. But for the sufferer, such tasks can feel critically important, and must be performed in particular ways to ward off dire consequences and to stop the stress from building up. Examples of these tasks: repeatedly checking that one's parked car has been locked before leaving it; turning lights on and off a set number of times before exiting a room; repeatedly washing hands at regular intervals throughout the day.
Symptoms may include some, all or perhaps none of the following:
There are many other possible symptoms, and one need not display those above to suffer from OCD. It is important to remember that one must be diagnosed by a doctor to officially have OCD in medical terms, but you still may be suffering. Furthermore, possessing the symptoms above is not an absolute sign of OCD.
Obsessions are thoughts and ideas that the sufferer cannot stop thinking about. Common OCD obsessions include fears of acquiring disease, getting hurt, or causing harm to someone. Obsessions are typically automatic, frequent, distressing, and difficult to control or put an end to. People with OCD who obsess about hurting themselves or others are actually less likely to do so than the average person.
Compulsions refer to actions that the person performs, usually repeatedly, in an attempt to make the obsession go away. For an OCD sufferer who obsesses about germs or contamination, for example, these compulsions often involve repeated cleansing or meticulous avoidance of trash and mess. Most of the time the actions become so regular that it is not a noticeable problem. Common compulsions include excessive washing and cleaning; checking; hoarding; repetitive actions such as touching, counting, arranging and ordering; and other ritualistic behaviors that the person feels will lessen the chances of provoking an obsession. Compulsions can be observable — washing, for instance — but they can also be mental rituals such as repeating words or phrases, or counting.
Most OCD sufferers are aware that such thoughts and behavior are not rational, but feel bound to comply with them to fend off feelings of panic or dread. Because sufferers are consciously aware of this irrationality but feel helpless to push it away, untreated OCD is often regarded as one of the most vexing and frustrating of the major anxiety disorders.
In an attempt to further relate the immense distress that those afflicted with this condition must bear, Barlow and Durand (2006) use the following example. They implore readers not to think of pink elephants. Their point lies in the assumption that most people will immediately create an image of a pink elephant in their minds, even though told not to do so. The more one attempts to stop thinking of these colorful animals, the more one will continue to generate these mental images. This phenomenon is termed the "Thought Avoidance Paradox”, and it plagues those with OCD on a daily basis, for no matter how hard one tries to get these disturbing images and thoughts out of one's mind, feelings of distress and anxiety inevitably prevail. Although everyone may experience unpleasant thoughts at one time or another, these are usually warranted concerns that are short-lived and fade after an adequate time period has lapsed. However, this is not the case for OCD sufferers. (K. Carter, PSYC 210 lecture, February 14, 2006).
People who suffer from the separate condition obsessive compulsive personality disorder are not aware of anything abnormal about themselves; they will readily explain why their actions are rational, and it is usually impossible to convince them otherwise. People who suffer from OCPD tend to derive pleasure from their obsessions or compulsions, while those with OCD do not feel pleasure but are ridden with anxiety. OCD is ego dystonic, meaning that the disorder is incompatible with the sufferer's self-concept. Because disorders that are ego dystonic go against an individual's perception of his/herself, they tend to cause much distress. OCPD, on the other hand, is ego syntonic — marked by the individual's acceptance that the characteristics displayed as a result of this disorder are compatible with his/her self-image. Ego syntonic disorders understandably cause no distress (K. Carter, PSYC 210 lecture, April 11, 2006). This is a significant difference between these disorders.
Equally frequently, these rationalizations do not apply to the overall behavior, but to each instance individually; for example, a person compulsively checking their front door may argue that the time taken and stress caused by one more check of the front door is considerably less than the time and stress associated with being robbed, and thus the check is the better option. In practice, after that check, the individual is still not sure, and it is still better in terms of time and stress to do one more check, and this reasoning can continue as long as necessary.
Not all OCD sufferers engage in compulsive behavior. Recent years have seen increased diagnoses of Pure Obsessional OCD, or "Pure O." This form of OCD is manifested entirely within the mind, and involves obsessive ruminations triggered by certain thoughts. These mental "snags" can be debilitating, often tying up a sufferer for hours at a time. As of 2004, specialists continue to make headway. It is believed by many that Pure O OCD is in fact more prevalent than other types of OCD, although it is likely the most underreported as it is not visibly apparent, and sufferers tend to suffer in silence. In this disorder, the sufferer tries to "disprove" the anxious thoughts through logic and reasoning, yet in doing so becomes further entrapped by the obsessions. "Pure O" OCD is thought to be the most difficult form of OCD to treat.
Some OCD sufferers exhibit what is known as overvalued ideas. In such cases, the person with OCD will truly be uncertain whether the fears that cause them to perform their compulsions are irrational or not. After some (possibly long) discussion, it is possible to convince the individual that their fears may be unfounded. It may be extra difficult to do ERP therapy on such patients, because they may be, at least initially, unwilling to cooperate.
OCD is different from behaviors such as gambling addiction and overeating. People with these disorders typically experience at least some pleasure from their activity; OCD sufferers do not actively want to perform their compulsive tasks, and experience no pleasure from doing so.
OCD is placed in the anxiety class of mental illness, but like many chronic stress disorders it can lead to clinical depression over time. The constant stress of the condition can cause sufferers to develop a deadening of spirit, a numbing frustration, or sense of hopelessness. OCD's effects on day-to-day life — particularly its substantial consumption of time — can produce difficulties with work, finances and relationships.
The illness ranges widely in severity. There is no known cure for OCD, but it can be treated with anti-depressants.
Causes and related disorders
It was the general belief in the 14th and 15th centuries that those who experienced blasphemous, sexual, or other obsessive thoughts were possessed by the devil. Based on this reasoning, treatment involved banishing the evil from the possessed patient through exorcism (Baer, Jenike, and Minichiello, 1968).
Today the community of scientists studying obsessive-compulsive disorder has been split into two factions by a bitter feud over the exact cause of the illness. On one side is a group who believe that obsessive-compulsive behaviour is a psychological disorder. This group believes that OCD is caused when people believe that they are personally responsible for the obsessional thoughts they experience. This exaggerated sense of responsibility makes sufferers more anxious, keeping the distressing thought in their mind. They try to avoid this feeling of responsibility by performing compulsions. On the other side are scientists who believe that obsessive-compulsive behaviour is caused by abnormalities in the brain. A majority of researchers now believe in this biological hypothesis of OCD.
In the early 1900s, Freud attributed obsessive-compulsive behavior to unconscious conflicts which manifested as symptoms (Baer, Jenike, and Minichiello, 1968). Freud describes the clinical history of a typical case of 'touching phobia' as follows:
There are many different theories about the cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some research has discovered a type of size abnormality in different brain structures. The majority of researchers believe that there is some type of abnormality in the neurotransmitter serotonin, among other possible psychological or biological abnormalities; however, it is possible that this activity is the brain's response to OCD, and not its cause. Serotonin is thought to have a role in regulating anxiety, though it is also thought to be involved in such processes as sleep and memory function. This neurotransmitter travels from one nerve cell to the next via synapses. In order to send chemical messages, serotonin must bind to the receptor sites located on the neighboring nerve cell. It is hypothesized that OCD sufferers may have blocked or damaged receptor sites that prevent serotonin from functioning to its full potential. This suggestion is supported by the fact that many OCD patients benefit from the use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) — a class of antidepressant medications that allow for more serotonin to be readily available to other nerve cells. (For more about this class of drugs, see the section about potential treatments for OCD.)
Recent research has revealed a possible genetic mutation that could be the cause of OCD. Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have found a mutation in the human serotonin transporter gene, hSERT, in unrelated families with OCD. Moreover, in his study of monozygotic twins, Rasmussen (1994) produced data that supported the idea that there is a “heritable factor for neurotic anxiety”. In addition, he noted that environmental factors also play a role in how these anxiety symptoms are expressed. However, various studies on this topic are still being conducted and the presence of a genetic link is not yet definitely established.
Technological advancements have allowed for the possibility of brain imaging. Using tools like positron emission tomography (PET scans), it has been shown that those with OCD tend to have brain activity that differs from those who do not have this disorder (Tennen, accessed 4/14/06). This suggests that brain functioning in those with OCD may be impaired in some way. A popular explanation for OCD is that offered in the book 'Brain Lock' by Jeffrey Schwartz, which suggests that OCD is caused by the part of the brain that is responsible for translating complex intentions (e.g., "I will pick up this cup") into fundamental actions (e.g., "move arm forward, rotate hand 15 degrees, etc.") failing to correctly communicate the chemical message that an action has been completed. This is perceived as a feeling of doubt and incompleteness which then leads the individual to attempt to consciously deconstruct their own prior behavior — a process which induces anxiety in most people, even those without OCD.
It has been theorized that a miscommunication between the orbital-frontal cortex, the caudate nucleus, and the thalamus may be a factor in the explanation of OCD. The orbital-frontal cortex (OFC) is the first part of the brain to notice whether or not something is amiss. When the OFC notices that something is wrong, it sends an initial “worry signal” to the thalamus. When the thalamus receives this signal, it in turn sends signals back to the OFC to interpret the worrying event. The caudate nucleus lies between the OFC and the thalamus and it prevents the initial worry signal from being sent back to the thalamus after it has already been received. However, it is suggested that in those with OCD, the caudate nucleus does not function properly, and therefore does not prevent this initial signal from recurring. This causes the thalamus to become hyperactive and creates a virtually never-ending loop of worry signals being sent back and forth between the OFC and the thalamus. The OFC responds by increasing anxiety and engaging in compulsive behaviors in an attempt to relieve this apprehension.
People with OCD may be diagnosed with other conditions, such as Tourette syndrome, compulsive skin picking, body dysmorphic disorder and trichotillomania. It is also interesting to note that there is some research demonstrating a link between drug addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder as well. There is a higher risk of drug addiction among those with any anxiety disorder (possibly as a way of coping with the heightened levels of anxiety), but drug addiction among obsessive compulsive patients may serve as a type of compulsive behavior and not just as a coping mechanism. Depression is also extremely prevalent among sufferers of OCD. One explanation for the high depression rate among OCD populations was posited by Mineka, Watson and Clark (1998), who explained that people with OCD (or any other anxiety disorder) may feel depressed because of an "out of control" type of feeling. There may also be a link between autism and Asperger syndrome and OCD.
Some cases are thought to be caused at least in part by childhood streptococcal infections and are termed P.A.N.D.A.S. (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections). The streptococcal antibodies become involved in an autoimmune process. Though this idea is not set in stone, if it does prove to be true, there is cause to believe that OCD can to some very small extent be “caught” via exposure to strep throat (just as one may catch a cold). However, if OCD is caused by bacteria, this provides hope that antibiotics may eventually be used to treat or prevent it (Belkin, accessed 4/12/06).
OCD in men at least may be partially caused by low estrogen levels (external link about this is below).
Demographics and other statistics
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder tends to be slightly more common in females than in males. The lifetime prevalence of the disorder in women is 2.9%, versus 2.0% in men. However, in a 1980 study of 20,000 adults from New Haven, Baltimore, St. Louis, Durham, and Los Angeles, the lifetime prevalence rate of OCD for both genders was recorded at 2.5%.
Education also appears to be a factor. The lifetime prevalence of OCD is lower for those who have graduated high school than for those who have not (1.9% versus 3.4%). However, in the case of college education, lifetime prevalence is higher for those who graduate with a degree (3.1%) than it is for those who have only some college background (2.4%). As far as age is concerned, the onset of OCD usually ranges from the late teenage years until the mid-twenties in both genders, but the age of onset tends to be slightly younger in males than in females (Antony, Downie, & Swinson, 1998).
Violence is rare among OCD sufferers, but the disorder is often debilitating and detrimental to their quality of life. Also, the psychological self-awareness of the irrationality of the disorder can be painful. For people with severe OCD, it may take several hours a day to carry out the compulsive acts. To avoid perceived obsession triggers, they also often avoid certain situations or places altogether.
It has been alleged that sufferers are generally of above-average intelligence, as the very nature of the disorder necessitates complicated thinking patterns, but this has never been supported by clinical data.
OCD can be treated with Behavioral therapy (BT), Cognitive therapy (CT), medications, or any combination of the three. Psychotherapy can also help in some cases, while not one of the leading treatments. According to the Expert Consensus Guidelines for the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 1995, Vol. 54, supplement 4), the treatment of choice for most OCD is behavior therapy or cognitive behavior therapy.
The specific technique used in BT/CBT is called Exposure and Ritual Prevention (also known as Exposure and Response Prevention) or ERP; this involves gradually learning to tolerate the anxiety associated with not performing the ritual behavior. At first, for example, someone might touch something only very mildly "contaminated" (such as a tissue that has been touched by another tissue that has been touched by the end of a toothpick that has touched a book that came from a "contaminated" location, such as a school.) That is the "exposure." The "ritual prevention" is not washing. Another example might be leaving the house and checking the lock only once (exposure) without going back and checking again (ritual prevention). The person fairly quickly habituates to the (formerly) anxiety-producing situation and discovers that their anxiety level has dropped considerably; they can then progress to touching something more "contaminated" or not checking the lock at all — again, without performing the ritual behavior of washing or checking.
Pharmacologic treatments include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as paroxetine (Paxil, Aropax), sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac), and fluvoxamine (Luvox) as well as the tricyclic antidepressants, in particular clomipramine (Anafranil). SSRIs prevent excess serotonin from being pumped back into the original neuron that released it. Instead, the serotonin can then bind to the receptor sites of nearby neurons and send chemical messages or signals that can help regulate the excessive anxiety and obsessive-compulsive thoughts. SSRIs seem to be the most effective drug treatments for OCD, and help about 60% of OCD patients, but do not "cure" OCD (Barlow & Durand, 2006). Other medications like gabapentin (Neurontin), lamotrigine (Lamictal), and the newer atypical antipsychotics olanzapine (Zyprexa) and risperidone (Risperdal) have also been found to be useful as adjuncts in the treatment of OCD.
The naturally occurring sugar Inositol may be an effective treatment for OCD. 
Recent research has found increasing evidence that opioids may significantly reduce OCD symptoms, though the addictive property of these drugs likely stands as an obstacle to their sanctioned approval for OCD treatment. Anecdotal reports suggest that some OCD sufferers have successfully self-medicated with opioids such as Ultram and Vicodin, though the off-label use of such painkillers is not encouraged, again because of their addictive qualities.
Studies have also been done that show nutrition deficiencies may also be a probable cause for OCD and other mental disorders. Certain vitamin and mineral supplements may aid in such disorders and provide the nutrients necessary for proper mental functioning.
For some, neither medication, support groups nor psychological treatments are helpful in alleviating obsessive-compulsive symptoms. These patients may choose to undergo psychosurgery as a last resort. In this procedure, a surgical lesion is made in an area of the brain (the cingulate bundle). In one study, 30% of participants benefited significantly from this procedure (Barlow & Durand, 2006).
OCD primarily involves the brain regions of the striatum and the cingulate cortex, especially the striatum. OCD involves several different receptors, mostly H2, M4, nk1, NMDA, and non-NMDA glutamate receptors. The receptors 5-HT1D, 5-HT2C, and the mu opioid receptor exert a secondary effect. The H2, M4, nk1, and non-NMDA glutamate receptors are active in the striatum, whereas the NMDA receptors are active in the cingulate cortex.
The activity of certain receptors is positively correlated to the severity of OCD, whereas the activity of certain other receptors is negatively correlated to the severity of OCD. Those correlations are as follows:
Activity positively correlated to severity:
Activity negatively correlated to severity:
The central dysfunction of OCD involves the receptors nk1, non-NMDA glutamate receptors, and NMDA, whereas the other receptors exert secondary modulatory effects.
Pharmaceuticals that act directly on those core mechanisms are aprepitant (nk1 antagonist), riluzole (glutamate release inhibitor), and tautomycin (NMDA receptor sensitizer). Also, the anti-Alzheimer's drug memantine is being studied by the OC Foundation in its efficacy in reducing OCD symptoms due to it being a NMDA antagonist. One case study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry "suggests that memantine may be an option for treatment-resistant OCD, but controlled studies are needed to substantiate this observation." The drugs that are popularly used to fight OCD lack efficacy because they do not act upon the core mechanisms.
OCD in literature and film
The media's portrayal of OCD sufferers as eccentric and overtly neurotic is a contributing factor in the continuing public misconception of the disorder. Contrary to popular belief, OCD sufferers will rarely exhibit their compulsive behaviours in public, often becoming very adept at hiding or camouflaging their rituals. To the outside observer, the person with OCD will often seem completely normal. In fact, the more visible traits of OCD are actually ones that are encouraged and even admired in society, such as perfectionism, attention to detail, and cleanliness. The popular media rarely portray sufferers as they truly are — locked in a debilitating cycle of meaningless rituals that they feel compelled to perform even while recognizing their senselessness.
(Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers)
for education staff and volunteers in schools
LINKS and REFERENCE
charity no: 230750
A taste for adventure capitalists
Solar Cola - the healthier cola alternative
This website is Copyright © 1999 & 2012 NJK. The bird logo and name Solar Navigator are trademarks. All rights reserved. All other trademarks are hereby acknowledged. Max Energy Limited is an educational charity.