In the United States alone, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects one out of every 30 to 40 adults, and one out of every 70 to 80 children (Austin Center, 2003, para. 1). It is a neurological problem wherein “obsessive thoughts can become so haunting and the compulsive rituals so senselessly time-consuming, that effective functioning becomes impossible (Myers, 2006, para. 656). Its symptoms include excessive repetition of a certain activity due to a recurring anxious thought or obsessions.
According to the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation, an obsession is a thought, image or impulse that keeps recurring and makes one feel out of control triggering fear, disgust, doubt and the need to repeatedly perform compulsions or activities that relieve the discomfort being caused (Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation, 2007, para. 7-8). What separates OCD from normal anxieties and behavior is that it causes distress, takes up more than an hour a day and interferes with the normal job function and social relationships of a person (para. ).
The seriousness of the thoughts and embarrassment that comes along with the disorder usually makes those afflicted attempt to hide it from the public which only aggravates the situation. There are still no evidences that could prove any certain type of gene could cause OCD but studies have led researchers to believe that the disorder can be inherited by other members of the family in another form. For example, a mother may be obsessed in cleaning the dishes while her child may compulsively keep checking the locks.
There is enough evidence that OCD is caused by the lack of serotonin or chemical messenger between the front part of the brain which is known as the orbital cortex and its deeper structures called the basal ganglia (para. 13). It is known that OCD starts among preschool children and progresses to adulthood. According to Dr. Susan Swedo of the National Institute of Mental Health, strep throat, a sore throat problem caused by a bacteria which usually afflicts children, may trigger the “autoimmune response” of the body which affects the basal ganglia and lead to OCD (Anderson, 1996, para. ).
A combination of cognitive-behavioral and drug therapies can be very effective in patients with OCD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) center on “patterns of thinking that are maladaptive and the beliefs that underlie such thinking (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2003, para. 1). People with OCD are helped by first identifying the recurrent thoughts or fears. Through CBT, patients are then guided to rationalize that their obsessions are unfounded and helped by modifying their behaviors or compulsions.
This therapy has been proven to be effective for mild or early treatment of OCD because when patients are able to understand what they are going through, they are able to gain control of their thoughts and behaviors instead of being paralyzed by the fears that make them feel helpless with their situation. Serious cases of OCD also merit the use of drug therapy through the increase of serotonin levels which will help normalize the functions of the brain. However, these drugs do not cure OCD.
These only help control the symptoms and not the disorder itself. CBT is still more effective but the addition of medication will help patients find control and assist them in conquering the effects of OCD. OCD is a problem that can go undetected for years, especially when it starts in childhood. The public, especially parents, must become more aware of this disorder so that children and adults can be relieved of the unnecessary worry that afflicts generations of its victims.