Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: What You Need to Know
While often used in a joking manner to describe individuals with rigid standards for cleanliness or order, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a real, common, and chronic mental disorder that affects people of all ages and genders.
Parents and teachers often recognize OCD symptoms in children, and most people are diagnosed by age 19, although onset after 35 happens. Boys may develop OCD earlier than girls.
What are the Symptoms of OCD?
Obsessions are repeated mental images or thoughts that cause anxiety, common obsessions are:
- Needing things to be in perfect or symmetrical order
- Aggressive thoughts toward self or others
- Fear of contamination or germs
- Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts about religion, harm, or sex
Compulsions are behaviors that a person with OCD will feel a strong urge to perform as a result of obsessive or unshakeable thoughts, such as:
- Compulsive counting
- Ordering or arranging things in a particular way
- Excessive handwashing
- Repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked, clothes iron, or oven is off
- Excessive cleaning
Many people who do these things do not have OCD. A person with OCD will not be able to control their thoughts or behaviors, even when recognizing that the behaviors are excessive and cause significant problems in their day to day life. They may spend at least an hour daily on thoughts and behaviors associated with OCD. A person with OCD derives no pleasure from doing these behaviors but may feel temporary relief from the anxiety caused by the thoughts.
Can OCD Be Treated?
SRI medications, and some SSRIs, are frequently prescribed by doctors to treat OCD symptoms. SRIs often require a higher daily dosage when treating OCD versus depression, and may take longer to start working (eight to twelve weeks) for some patients.If these medications are ineffective, antipsychotic medication may be prescribed.
Medications are not risk-free, and many have side effects, so it is important for doctors to closely follow up patients, especially in the first few weeks of a new medication, or when the dosage is changed.
Do not stop your medication without talking to your doctor or pharmacist. Make sure you report side effects or concerns about your medication to your doctor right away so that your doctor can change your dosage or prescribe a different medication.