OCD Spectrum Disorder Research Articles & Resources
Elizabeth MichaelLast updated:
Erin L. George, MFTMedical editor
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition in which a person becomes hyper-focused on or "obsessed" with unwanted mental images, thoughts, urges, or ideas. (1) These obsessions are generally repetitive in nature and can be highly upsetting. Often, OCD-related obsessions do not match with the individual's true nature or personality.
OCD spectrum disorder is a term used to describe related mental health conditions in which certain symptoms such as repetitive thoughts and actions are similar to those of OCD. (2) Some common OCD spectrum disorders include:
Most people with OCD and OCD spectrum disorder understand that their fears and obsessions are irrational, but the accompanying anxiety is often so great that they simply cannot let the irrational ideas go. To neutralize the anxiety that accompanies OCD thoughts, sufferers perform compulsions or rituals that range from repeating actions and checking and rechecking things to ruminating on the obsession for extended periods of time.
TUESDAY, Dec. 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Though most patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be successfully treated with medication and therapy, between 10 percent to 20 percent have a form of the illness that doesn't respond to standard care, experts say. However, patients with this so-called "refractory OCD"... Read More
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may be at higher risk for schizophrenia, a new study suggests. Still, the findings shouldn't cause undue worry in people with OCD, one expert said. "In the general population, about 1 percent of people are diagnosed with... Read More
FRIDAY, May 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Do you ever feel a bit tortured by the idea that you left the iron on or caught a dread disease in that dirty restroom? Ever have a random thought about hurting someone even though you're not a violent person? You're far... Read More
Hello, I’m 24 and living in Europe. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and hypochondria, and the latter pretty much under control now. But... Read More
I am a 17 year old high school student who has enough motivation to get good grades and move on to college. However, I have... Read More
I am 24 year old student. I have OCD and depression and some other psychologiacal problems. I want to do career in acting... Read More
I was in a public restroom last summer and came across something I had never seen before: a toe opener. This particular one was attached to the bottom of the... Read More
In many ways, the Internet has been a godsend for those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder or other brain disorders. People who previously might have felt so alone are now... Read More
I’ve previously written about recovery avoidance in those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and how heartbreaking it can be for family and friends to know there is treatment for the illness... Read More
The exact cause of OCD isn't fully understood, but experts believe the disorder may be linked to genetic factors and abnormalities within the brain. (3) In some cases, OCD is also thought to run in families. People often start developing symptoms of OCD as teenagers or young adults, but they may begin in early childhood. Research also points to the possibility of both adult and childhood OCD stemming from childhood abuse and trauma. (4)
Sometimes referred to as "the doubting disease," OCD often comes with excessive doubt, fear, worry, and superstitions. While it's totally natural to experience these feelings, in people with OCD, the feelings and emotions are excessive. Experts believe that brains in individuals with OCD process and communicate information incorrectly, which causes sufferers to become stuck on ideas and beliefs.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that's responsible for communication, and some experts suggest individuals with OCD have low levels of serotonin in their brains. (5) Low serotonin levels occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from hormonal changes and genetic factors to excessive stress. (6) However, it's important to note that, at present, there are no lab tests available to diagnose OCD, so the serotonin theory is just one of many possible causes.
OCD symptoms are characterized by obsessional thoughts and compulsive behaviors. (7) This means a person with the condition is likely to become obsessed with a thought, mental image, idea, or perceived urge. To rid themselves of the anxiety and distress caused by the obsession, sufferers act on compulsions and/or perform ritualistic behaviors.
Obsessional thoughts and fears in individuals with OCD include:
Signs of OCD related to compulsive behaviors and rituals include:
To be diagnosed with OCD, individuals must meet certain criteria:
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is considered one of the most effective types of OCD treatment. (12) Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) is a form of CBT in which patients are exposed to their fears and obsessions under the care of a therapist. (13)
After the initial exposure, the patient must abstain from performing compulsive behaviors to reduce their anxiety. Over time, ERP therapy helps patients accept their obsessions as merely irrational thoughts that do not pose any type of threat. Sometimes, CBT therapy is used as the sole treatment for OCD, or it may be used in conjunction with OCD medications that help balance serotonin levels in the brain. (14)
One way for a person to cope with an OCD diagnosis is to decide to fully commit to therapy and to follow the advice of their therapists. In most cases, experts consider OCD as a chronic condition with symptoms that can wax and wane over time. (14) However, with proper treatment, individuals diagnosed with OCD can manage their symptoms and move toward happiness and more balanced mental health.
It's important for family members and loved ones to educate themselves on OCD so they can truly understand what the patient may be going through. Being patient and supportive is also essential as the individual navigates therapy, as many OCD patterns are deeply ingrained. It can take time for someone to recover from OCD, and some people deal with symptoms that come and go throughout their lives.