Obsessive compulsive disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder
(OCD) is characterised by anxious thoughts and/or rituals that a
person doesn’t feel able to control, writes Natalie Valios. They
take up at least an hour a day, are very distressing and interfere
with a person’s daily life. It can affect people of all ages, and
about half the adults diagnosed with the disorder had it as a
child. It affects one in 50 people and one in 100 children. The
cause of OCD is not known for certain, but it may be due to an
imbalance in the brain chemical serotonin, which affects mood,
emotion, sleep and appetite. Obsessions are recurrent, unwanted
thoughts that cannot be controlled, such as fears of contamination
through germs and dirt; imagining you have harmed yourself or
others; or dwelling on sexual urges that repulse you. The typical
reaction to these obsessions is to try to make them go away by
performing compulsions, which the person carries out repeatedly,
often following certain “rules”. Those who are worried about
contamination may constantly wash their hands to the point that
they become raw and inflamed. A person may count items or touch
them over and over again because of an obsession about losing them.
Acting out the compulsions provides temporary relief, but not
performing them increases a person’s anxiety. Treatment includes
behaviour therapy and medication, which work most effectively when
combined. The aim of behaviour therapy is to teach the person how
to control the problem by tackling it in stages so that they can
overcome their fear of not carrying out the compulsions. Several
anti-depressant drugs have been found to help, including fluoxetine
and clomipramine.

more information go to www.mind.org.uk or www.rcpsych.ac.uk


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