What is obsessive-compulsive disorder and how can it be managed?

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder and how can it be managed?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a threatening psychiatric disorder producing high morbidity if not appropriately diagnosed and treated. Persons who suffer from OCD exhibit obsessive and compulsive deeds. Obsession and compulsion are characterized by uncontrollable and repeated thoughts and the urge to do a specific action. The mental disorder can affect anyone regardless of age and genetic heritage. Any human being can experience distressful thoughts and exhibit recurring behaviors, but these habits and thoughts do not adversely impact daily life. For people with OCD, the thoughts and behaviors get out of hand to the extent of disrupting their daily livelihood.

According to a study conducted by Lack (2012), OCD is equally present among males and females adults, but it heavily affects males in pediatric patients. A majority of the children who have the mental disorder do not realize that their obsessions and compulsions are excessive and unnecessary. Adults suffering from OCD are aware that their habits and thoughts are nonsensical; however, failing to perform them translates to great distress. According to Bhandari (2020), an individual with OCD will do a deed not because he/she enjoys it but because they are helpless (cannot quit). The obsession of OCD causes some thoughts, images, or impulses to be continuous, leading to emotional distress. Most patients with OCD know that their views are unreasonable, but the level of distress they experience cannot be settled by reasoning. The distress of this obsession is eased by ignoring it or distracting one’s mind by focusing on other activities. Below are examples of obsessions:

  • Fearing an accident will occur and hurt oneself or other persons
  • Fearing contamination by people or the surrounding
  • Distressing sexual thoughts
  • Recurring intrusive thoughts of some images, sounds, or words
  • Panic of losing something important
  • Groundless suspicion that a partner is disloyal

Compulsions are the deeds in response to an obsession. Committing these actions (triggered by obsession) offers some comfort as it reduces distress (American Psychiatric Association, n.d.). The successive response behavior (compulsion) may be directly or indirectly related to an obsession. Examples of compulsion are:

  • Excessive cleaning routine such as over showering, washing hands, or brushing teeth
  • Insisting on arranging things in a particular manner
  • Constantly checking on appliances, locks, or switches
  • Frequently asking for reassurance or approval

In severe instances, the constant repetition of these rituals may take the most of the day, making it impossible to fulfill one’s normal routine. The main symptom of this mental disorder is when the obsessions and compulsions are too much to the extent of interfering with a person’s daily routine. The symptoms are gradual, and their severity will vary depending on the state of an individual’s life. For instance, if a person is stressed, the symptoms of OCD are likely to be intense.

Causes of OCD:

  • Although the precise cause of OCD cannot be pointed out, scientists believe that it arises when certain brain areas fail to respond to serotonin as usual(Robinson, 2020).
  • Genetics also has a small role in causing OCD. If a parent or sibling has the disorder, there is a 0.25 likelihood of another family member exhibiting its symptoms (Robinson, 2020).

Below are some of the factors that might trigger obsessive-compulsive disorder or encourage its development:

  • Family history
  • Other mental health disorders
  • Stressful life events (A past of traumatic or stressful events)

Although OCD has no cure, the disorder’s symptoms can be managed through therapy, a combination of treatments, and medicine intake. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is known to help patients change their thinking patterns. Therefore, with the aid of a therapist, patients suffering from OCD can be exposed to a situation formulated to set off compulsions, and from this, they (patients) learn to resist OCD thoughts and deeds. Intake of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can help moderate obsessions and compulsions (Nichols, 2020). These drugs take about four months before their effects are seen. In case there is no progress, the physician might prescribe antipsychotic drugs. Relaxation routines such as yoga, massage, and mediation are also effective in lessening the distress of OCD.

From the information gathered above, managing OCD does not necessarily require the involvement of other people; a patient can exercise self-care. The first tip of self-care is identifying triggers. The situations and thoughts that trigger an obsession should be noted as well as the rate of the intensity of anxiety or fear experienced in each case. Recording one’s triggers help anticipate urges which can help ease the compulsive urge before they occur (Smith et al., 2021). Another tip is learning to resist compulsions. Some people might prefer avoiding the trigger situations, but this means that they will become scarier and lead to a more severe compulsive outcome. Therefore, it is recommendable to expose oneself to the OCD triggers repeatedly and, in the process, learn to resist the desire to complete one’s compulsive rituals.

In conclusion, OCD is a rampant mental disorder that can affect anyone; health organizations should spread awareness on treatment measures. The mental illness can be severe, leading patients to lose their jobs and wreak their families. It is essential to offer people with the condition prompt attention before it causes much damage in their lives.


American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). What is obsessive-compulsive disorder? psychiatry.org. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ocd/what-is-obsessive-compulsive-disorder

Bhandari, S. (2020, September 4). Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/obsessive-compulsive-disorder#:~:text=Obsessive%2Dcompulsive%20disorder%20(OCD)%20is%20a%20mental%20illness%20that,nails%20or%20thinking%20negative%20thoughts

Lack, C. W. (2012). Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Evidence-based treatments and future directions for research. World Journal of Psychiatry2(6), 86. https://doi.org/10.5498/wjp.v2.i6.86

Nichols, H. (2020, September 29). What is obsessive-compulsive disorder? MedicalNewsToday. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/178508

Robinson, D. (2020, April 1). Everything you want to know about OCD. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/ocd/social-signs#causes

Smith, M., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (2021, February). Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/obssessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd.htm

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