Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic illness characterized by repeated unwanted thoughts that lead to difficult-to-control behaviors. For instance, some individuals have obsessive thoughts about dirt or germs, associated with the compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. Others have obsessive thoughts that they forgot to do something, associated with the compulsion to repeatedly check things like locking the door or turning off the stove.
According to a recent study, approximately 1 in 40 adults in the United States have met the criteria for a diagnosis of OCD at some point in their lives. The World Health Organization has ranked OCD as one of the top 20 causes of illness-related disability, worldwide, for individuals between 15 and 44 years of age. Current estimates also suggest that approximately 1 in 100 children has OCD.
More Information About OCD
Researchers have not pinpointed the exact cause of OCD, but brain abnormalities, genetic influences and environmental factors are thought to play a role. OCD usually begins in adolescence or young adulthood and tends to appear at a younger age in boys than in girls. Several parts of the brain play a key role in obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior, as well as the fear and anxiety related to them.
Symptoms of OCD
OCD symptoms include obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, impulses and ideas that are unrelenting. These thoughts can get in the way of normal thoughts. Obsessions can include:
- Fear of losing or misplacing something
- Fear of germs or contamination
- Fear of harm to self or loved ones
Compulsions are behaviors that people repeat to try to control the obsessions. These behaviors could be rigid and structured, or complex behaviors that change. Compulsions can include:
- Excessively cleaning or washing
- Keeping or hoarding unnecessary objects
- Repeatedly checking on things
- Always moving items to keep them in perfect order
Some patients with OCD also have tic disorders. Motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements such as eye blinking, shoulder shrugging and facial grimacing. Vocal tics can include sniffling, grunting sounds, or repetitive throat clearing.
Treatments for OCD
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the two main OCD treatments are psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), specifically Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), has been shown to help patients recover from OCD. ERP helps to retrain the parts of the brain responsible for OCD by gradually exposing individuals to their fears or obsessions.
For treatment of OCD in children, mental health professionals help identify strategies to manage stress and increase support to avoid OCD symptoms at school and home. Medications commonly used to treat depression can also be helpful for the treatment of OCD.
For patients who don’t respond to medication and therapy, SeattleNTC is the only center in Washington state offering all major cutting-edge, FDA-approved treatment options for OCD, including Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and deep brain stimulation (DBS). TMS can provide successful outcomes for OCD patients who have failed other medications with a response rate of 3-4 out of 10 finding relief. Additionally, in conjunction with Swedish Medical Center, we offer DBS for patients with very severe cases of OCD. Our doctors will work to find the best solution.