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Although there are various types of psychiatric diseases, one of the more disabling mental conditions is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it is little known by the medical community since it is characterized by two characteristics: fixation and addiction (Abramowitz, Taylor, & McKay, 2009). With the emergence of unhealthy obsessions and compulsive habits, Obsessive-Compulsive disorder affects all individuals of all ages and walks of life. Unwanted obsessions often cause unwarranted anxiety and when the individual intends to get rid of those obsessions, the compulsions emerge. Such obsessions can range from the fear of germs or contamination, unwanted thoughts that can vary from religion to others that involve harm. Further, the affected individual can have aggressive thoughts towards oneself and others. In response to the obsessions, the person can end up repeatedly washing their hands, arranging things in a certain way, and they can continuously check whether the door is locked. The role of this paper is to critically analyze the symptoms of OCD, as well as the criteria involved in the diagnosis. Further, the paper will examine the treatment options available in the control of OCD.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

OCD is a type of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are prevalent mental health conditions, and in the United States of America alone, they affect at least 18% of the entire adult population (Leonard, Ale, Freeman, Garcia, & Ng, 2005). While obsessive thoughts form the largest part of the disorder, we cannot categorize OCD as a thought disorder. The primary reason being there are the compulsive components that lead to the performance of particular rituals repeatedly. In most cases, the people suffering from OCD are always conscious of their condition. However, trying to convince them that everything will be all right is not always a good cure of the obsessive and the compulsive feelings (Abramowitz, Taylor, & McKay, 2009).

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The symptoms of OCD varies from person to person as the disorder deals with both obsessions and compulsions. Studies show that not all people with OCD have all the symptoms with some people experiencing the majority of the symptoms while others only experience a few of the symptoms (Leonard, Ale, Freeman, Garcia, & Ng, 2005). Ideally, the obsessions always come up when the person is trying to do other things, and there occurs the repeated, persistent and unwanted ideas, images, having thoughts, impulses, which in a normal person would not make any sense. Most of the obsessions range from the fear of germs or getting contaminated, unwarranted sexual thoughts, having the desire to place things in a particular order, experiencing images of harming self or others, and lastly, having doubts whether one did a routine work such as locking the door (Leonard, Ale, Freeman, Garcia, & Ng, 2005).

The person then experiences the compulsive part of the disorder that combine with the obsessive symptoms to make OCD. The compulsions always make the affected person feel driven to perform certain tasks that can include. First, the washing of hands to the point of skew rawness, the need to stay organized and orderly at all times. Second, the need to be constantly reassured. Thirdly, the patient can repeatedly check things like doors to see if they are locked, and lastly, the patients can leave the house and counter check if they did not fail or forget to unplug something (Leonard, Ale, Freeman, Garcia, & Ng, 2005).

Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Researchers have conducted studies on OCD. However, the causes of OCD remain unknown with psychologists coming up with theories and risk factors. Some of the risk factors include; the genetics of the person, the environment surrounding the person, and Brain structure and functioning.


Studies reveal that in families with OCD, especially in twins, they have a high risk of developing OCD (Franklin, & Talbott, 2010). The risk increases especially if the relative experienced instances of OCD at an early age. There are ongoing studies on the connection between OCD and genetics, and this might help in coming up with a diagnostic plan and treatment which remains elusive. Generally, in all cases of OCD, genetic factors account for 45-65% of the OCD symptoms (Franklin, & Talbott, 2010).

Brain Structure and Functioning

Images taken of a person with OCD have shown major differences in the frontal cortex and the subcortical structures of the patients. Psychologists believe to be a relationship between the symptoms of OCD and the abnormalities in the particular areas of the brain, but the connection remains unclear. Nonetheless, research conducted to show the connection is still underway and having a better understanding of the cause will assist in getting personalized treatments for OCD. Further, a difference in the activity of serotonin is eminent in people with OCD (Franklin, & Talbott, 2010).


Research shows that people who have experienced abuse either physical or sexual abuse in the formative years are at increased risk of developing OCD (Franklin, & Talbott, 2010). In other instances, an individual may develop the symptoms of OCD after a streptococcal infection which is known as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders (PANDAS).

The Diagnosis, Treatment, and Therapies of OCD

The formal diagnosis of OCD is made by a psychologist, a clinical worker, a psychiatrist, or any other licensed mental health practitioner. Nonetheless, a complete prognosis is made when the patient’s experiences bouts of obsessions and compulsions. After a patient is fully diagnosed of having OCD, the medication entails treatment with the various drugs, psychotherapy or a combination of the two procedures (Stein, 2002). In most cases, the patient responds to the treatments made with some patients continuously experiencing OCD symptoms. Therapies conducted involves teaching the person to deal with triggers of obsessive thoughts without carrying out the acts associated with the obsession. That technique used by psychotherapists is known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) (Stein, 2002).

The most frequently used medications for OCD include the use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs) which are used to reduce the symptoms of OCD. One example of a medication shown to work in both children and adults is clomipramine. Studies show patients taking SSRIs show rapid improvement. However, the type of treatment accorded to a patient depends on the age of the patient with children mostly undergoing therapies.


It is evident that the causes of OCD are murky as are the causes of most mental disorders. A combination of factors facilitates in coming up with the full symptoms of OCD. Though the cause of OCD remains unknown, what works for OCD patients are therapies and various types of medications. If a patient fails to respond to one of the drugs, then another SRI can give a better response. However, a combination of both medications and therapies increases the response in patients with OCD. In most cases, the family members can show resentment to the person with OCD as such, education about OCD is important to the family. The training programs can be aimed at encouraging the person with OCD to adhere to the therapy programs in place. Indeed, the treatment of OCD sorely depends on a multi-faceted program that entails the cooperation of the patient, family, and health practitioner.


Abramowitz, J. S., Taylor, S., & McKay, D. (2009). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Lancet, 374(9688), 491-499.

Franklin, M. E., & Talbott, S. (2010). Obsessive compulsive disorder. In Handbook of Clinical Psychology Competencies (pp. 759-784). Springer New York.

Leonard, H. L., Ale, C. M., Freeman, J. B., Garcia, A. M., & Ng, J. S. (2005). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 14(4), 727-743.

Stein, D. J. (2002). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Lancet, 360(9330), 397-405.

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