3rd October 1999
We often have spontaneous worrying thoughts that come into our minds. We may also indulge in compulsive behaviours such as checking twice to make sure we have shut the door, but this does not affect our daily lives. When these thoughts and actions become persistent and distressing so much so that a person is unable to carry out daily activities, he or she may be suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.
A person suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder has distressing thoughts that disrupt the normal flow of thought to an intolerable level.
Obsessions are repetitive persistent thoughts or images that are intrusive, inappropriate and cause distress to the person. The distressed person tries to suppress these thoughts or neutralize them with some other thoughts or actions.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that a person performs to relieve the distress caused by the obsessive thought. Compulsion is an action often repeated in a particular order or in a magical (ritual) manner to either avoid some dreaded event or to relieve the distress caused by the thoughts. Some actions may have an obvious relationship to the obsessive thought, such as washing the hand repetitively to avoid contamination, while others have little relationship to the thought, such as failing to answer an examination because of the need to read the last word in a sentence repetitively.
What causes it?
It is difficult to identify one factor which causes this illness, but the following factors appear to predispose a person to the illness.
*Biological factors - abnormal functions in specific areas of the brain and under functioning of the brain chemical serotonin.
*Certain personality traits
*Genetic component - this illness can have a genetic component for its onset.
Without treatment, obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a debilitating illness with periodic worsening and improvement of symptoms. With treatment, many people find their obsessions and compulsions can be reduced to the point where they no longer interfere with daily living or are eliminated altogether.
When is treatment necessary?
Seeking treatment is warranted when obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour reaches levels at which they are time consuming, cause marked distress and interfere with a person's normal routine, such as social activities and performing at work or study.
What help is available?
o Medication is available to help control the distressing thoughts and or behaviours.
o Psychological therapy also helps a person gain control over obsessive thoughts and reduces or eliminates compulsive behaviour.
A combination of medication and psychological therapy is the most effective form of treatment.
What you can do:
These are some of the measures a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder can take to maximize recovery:
o If medication is prescribed, take it regularly, exactly the way it has been prescribed.
o If you're in psychological therapy, carry out the appropriate intervention technique the way it has been prescribed.
o Use exercise or relaxation techniques for relaxation.
-Courtesy of the National Council for Mental Health SAHANAYA
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