Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, affects millions of Americans. The condition may surface at any time, although most patients are effectively diagnosed by their late teen years or early adulthood. OCD is an anxiety disorder thought to be related to certain brain processes, although researchers are unsure of its cause. Scientists believe that some individuals are genetically pre-disposed to developing OCD, and certain environmental
stimuli may play a role in triggering the condition.
OCD individuals suffer from compulsive behaviors or rituals that are seemingly irrational. Often, these OCD behaviors are disruptive to relationships, work, family and day-to-day life. Failure to perform these behaviors or rituals can inflict serious stress and worry on a sufferer, whereas acting on obsessive compulsions merely satisfies the symptoms of OCD on a temporary basis.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is usually diagnosed after undergoing a psychiatric evaluation that rules out the presence of other mental illnesses. However, the symptoms of OCD are often quite evident both to the sufferer and those closest to him or her. For example, an obsessive need to organize to perfection or eat only foods with certain textures could signal a problem that needs professional analysis. Behaviors and rituals vary from patient to patient, however, as some OCD individuals may feel the need to repeatedly check something or only encounter even numbers.
Though some OCD symptoms are mild and non-disruptive to daily life, others may be more severe, causing daily distress. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help OCD patients cope with symptoms. Often, OCD is treated using cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients gradually resist the urge to perform certain actions when otherwise urged to do so.
Anti-depressant medications are also effective in alleviating symptoms for some patients, although not everyone experiences significant improvements. Ultimately, most OCD sufferers continue to battle symptoms for life, although managing symptoms is easier for many patients when undergoing psychiatric treatment.
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