OCD is a neurological disorder involving obsessions (ongoing and persistent thoughts, images, urges, or worries that cause distress and anxiety) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors, images, or thoughts that typically reduce or neutralize the anxiety caused by the obsession). Examples of symptoms of OCD include unwanted thoughts about harm to self or others, sex, religious themes, and contamination. Examples of compulsions to relieve the distress of these thoughts would be continuous checking, washing, repeating phrases mentally or praying in a specific way, tapping a set number of times etc. OCD has been noted in people of all ages and usually begins in adolescence but could first occur in childhood or adulthood.
OCD can greatly impact an individual’s functioning, particularly because the compulsions or rituals performed to relieve the anxiety of the obsessions are not a permanent fix and often soon after the compulsion is performed, the obsession arises again causing a vicious cycle that is a challenge to keep at bay.
The reason why some people develop OCD are unknown but research suggests it may be hereditary and it also may be due to brain chemistry abnormalities involving the neurochemical serotonin. Medications that appear to help OCD change serotonin levels although research is not clear on whether serotonin levels are the only contributing factors. Research strongly supports the treatment Exposure and Response (Ritual) Prevention (EX/RP) in the treatment of OCD.
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