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Old July 2nd, 2007, 06:27 PM   #1
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Default Obsessive Compulsive Disorder FAQ

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a potentially disabling anxiety disorder. A person who has OCD has intrusive and unwanted thoughts and repeatedly performs tasks to get rid of the thoughts. For example, if you have OCD, you may fear that everything you touch is contaminated with germs, and in order to ease that fear, you repeatedly wash your hands.

The effects of OCD range from mild to severe. OCD can disrupt your social life and relationships as well as your ability to work or go to school.

What are the symptoms?

OCD is a chronic or long-term illness, and the symptoms typically increase and decrease over time. Treatment can lessen the severity, but some symptoms may linger after you begin treatment. Anxiety is the most common symptom of OCD. For example, you may have an overall sense that something terrible will happen if you don't follow through with a particular ritual, such as repeated checking to see whether the stove is on. If you fail to perform the ritual, you may have immediate anxiety or a nagging sense of incompleteness.

Symptoms of OCD include:

*Obsessions, which are recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, and impulses that interrupt normal thinking and cause anxiety or fear. The thoughts may be sexual or violent or create a concern of illness. Examples include:
  • Persistent fear of harm to yourself or a loved one.
  • An excessive need to do things perfectly or correctly.
  • A fear of contamination.

*Compulsions, which are behaviors or rituals that are repeated intentionally to try to control the obsessions. Some people have rituals that are rigid and structured, while others have very complex rituals that change. Examples include:
  • Washing or checking continously
  • Counting, often while doing another compulsive action, such as hand-washing
  • Repeating things or endlessly rearranging items to keep them in perfect alignment
  • Strange Hoarding
  • Uncharictaristic Praying

People vary in their understanding of their obsessions and compulsions. Sometimes they may recognize their obsessions and compulsions as unrealistic, and at other times they may be unsure of or believe strongly in their fears.

What causes OCD?

What causes OCD?
Researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of OCD, but they are studying brain abnormalities, genetic (family) influences, and environmental factors. Brain scans in people with OCD have shown that they have different patterns of brain activity than those without OCD and that abnormal functioning of circuitry within a certain part of the brain (striatum) may be related to the disorder. Abnormalities in other parts of the brain and an imbalance of brain chemicals, especially serotonin, may also contribute to OCD.

How is OCD Diagnosed?

How is OCD diagnosed?
A diagnosis of OCD is based on your symptoms, your medical history, and a physical examination. Many people with OCD live with the condition for years and go without treatment because they are afraid or embarrassed to talk to a health professional.

Symptoms that confirm a diagnosis of OCD include:
  • Recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are intrusive and inappropriate, cause anxiety or distress, and are not simply excessive worries about real-life issues.
  • Attempts to suppress or ignore the thoughts or get rid of them with other thoughts or actions.
  • A recognition that the obsessions are created in your own mind and do not make sense.
  • Repetitive behaviors, such as hand-washing, ordering, praying, or checking that you're driven to do in response to the obsession. The behaviors are done to prevent or reduce distress or prevent a dreaded event.
In OCD, the obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming (more than 1 hour a day), greatly interfere with your normal routine at work or school, and affect social activities and relationships.

OCD is a very disruptive illness and is different from the inflexible character traits of OCD personality disorder, such as being a perfectionist and being overly conscientious.

How is it treated?

Treatment for OCD includes counseling and medications. Antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (for example, Prozac), are most commonly used. Your doctor may increase the dosage of your medication or change to another SSRI if the first medication prescribed doesn't help. It may take several weeks before you feel the effects of an antidepressant and it begins to affect thoughts and behavior.

Counseling used to treat OCD includes exposure and response prevention, a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Exposure and response prevention is behavorial therapy that provides gradually increasing contact with the feared obsession so that anxiety is reduced. For example, if you were obsessed about germ contamination, you would repeatedly touch an object you believe is contaminated and not wash your hands afterward. You would repeat that behavior until your anxiety was reduced. Cognitive therapy may also be used to help overcome the faulty beliefs (such as fear of contamination) that lead to OCD behaviors.

The most effective treatment for OCD may be using medications and counseling together.

This article is directly from Yahoo! Health. Some words were edited and added in order to make points clearer. Direct Link
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