Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, undesirable and repetitive thoughts and ritual behaviors that the patient feels compelled to follow. People who suffer from this mental disorder are able to realize that their thoughts and actions are irrational, but they feel unable to control them.
For example, patients with this diagnosis may check dozens of times if they have locked the door or washed their hands until they attack their skin to reduce the level of anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can have different manifestations from one person to another, even if the triggering mechanisms are the same.
Obsessions are involuntary, take the form of uncontrollable thoughts, images or impulses, which are repeated endlessly on a mental level. Patients do not want to have them, but they cannot resist their development. Obsessions are disturbing and distract from current activities to the point where they can become disabling.
Compulsions are behaviors or rituals that patients feel they adopt repetitively, usually in an attempt to remove obsessive thoughts, images, and impulses. Patients who develop an obsession with impurities can cleanse themselves in real endless rituals.
These behaviors meant to relieve the patient of obsessive thoughts do not remove them, but strengthen them, triggering anxiety.
The causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder could not be established in concrete terms, but recent studies attribute this condition to traumatic childhood experiences, marked in particular by the punishments applied by abusive parents for each rule violated.
The factor of heredity is insufficiently documented, but cultural influences in the development of obsessive-compulsive personality in states with a culture focused on authority, strict rules and harsh punishments could be observed.
Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder have both obsessions and compulsions, but there are also cases when the two components appear separately. The most common signs and symptoms of obsessions are:
- fear of contamination with germs or impurities;
- fear of hurting others or oneself;
- explicit or violent sexual thoughts and images;
- fanatical religious or moral thoughts;
- fear of losing seemingly unnecessary things, but which may be necessary at some point;
- obsession with everything being orderly, aligned and symmetrical;
- obsession with certain superstitions;
Symptoms of compulsions include:
- repetitive checking of locks, switches, appliances, etc .;
- checking the safety of loved ones;
- counting, pressing, repeating terms and other unjustified gestures for
- reducing anxiety;
- excessive housekeeping and washing;
- ordering or arranging things as they should be;
- saying excessive prayers, engaging in rituals due to religious fears;
- the accumulation of household waste at home and the refusal to throw away unnecessary objects;
The treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder focuses mainly on cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamically oriented techniques, two therapeutic methods that have proven effective in most patients. The goal is to understand the mechanisms that lead to obsessions and reduce compulsive behaviors.
Drug treatment consists of the administration of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meant to inhibit stiffness and compulsivity, even in the absence of depressive episodes. To reduce anxiety, short-term anxiolytics may be given to avoid the risk of tolerance or dependence. In very severe cases, antipsychotics are also useful.