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FAQ: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Print E-mail
Written by Mike Cohen   
Friday, 30 October 2009

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also called OCD, is a type of anxiety disorder. A person who has OCD has recurring or repeated obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts, ideas, or images that persist in the mind. Compulsions are mental acts or behaviors that are carried out repeatedly. These obsessions and compulsions are severe enough to be time-consuming. They may also cause a fair amount of distress or impairment. The impairment can interfere with everyday activities.

What is going on in the body?

The exact cause of OCD is not known. Recent studies have shown abnormal patterns of brain activity in people with OCD. The abnormalities occur in a part of the brain called the striatum. Obsessive-compulsive behaviors may be an attempt by the person to reduce anxiety. People who have OCD usually know that their behavior and thoughts are inappropriate. This recognition is distressing to them.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?
The exact cause of OCD is not known. It generally begins in childhood or adolescence. OCD tends to run in families. The sense of helplessness and the impairment with OCD may lead to depression. OCD is often seen together with other psychiatric disorders, such as the following:
- alcohol abuse
- attention deficit disorders
- depression
- drug abuse or addiction
- eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia- other anxiety disorders

What are the treatments for the condition?
Treatment for OCD usually involves both therapy and medication

Exposure and response prevention therapy is very useful for treating OCD. In this approach, a person is exposed to whatever triggers the obsessive thoughts. The individual is then taught techniques to avoid performing the compulsive rituals. He or she is also taught to deal with the anxiety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also used to treat OCD. The provider helps the person change his or her attitudes and beliefs. The individual learns to react differently to obsessions or compulsions.

Relaxation techniques may also be helpful. They help the person to control the body's reactions to anxiety.

Following is a list of antidepressant medications used to treat OCD:
- clomipramine
- fluoxetine
- fluvoxamine
- paroxetine
- sertraline

Medications may take weeks to show any improvement in OCD. If one medicine is not effective, others can be tried.

Neurosurgery may be performed for severe cases of OCD. It is done only if all other treatment has failed and the person is severely disabled.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Antidepressants may cause mild and usually temporary side effects in some people. Here is a list of the most common side effects:
- agitation
- constipation
- dizziness
- drowsiness
- dry mouth
- nausea

What happens after treatment for the condition?
Treatment of OCD is lifelong.

How is the condition monitored?
The person with OCD may have regular visits with the healthcare provider. The provider may order blood tests to monitor the level of medications. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the provider.


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