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Is OCD a Mental Illness?
Many people have suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, for years but without knowing it. Until the medical sector put a name to this condition, a lot of individuals just thought they were extremely particular about how they did things. Today, therapists and psychiatrists have a much better handle on OCD. Because of that, they can offer patients the help they need.
Is it actually a mental illness?
The answer to this question is yes.
What it entails
A therapist or psychiatrist characterizes the obsessive aspect of this mental illness as repetitive, uncontrollable and intrusive thoughts. As for the compulsive aspect, OCD entails someone having extremely strong and, sometimes, irrational urges to perform specific actions.
Even though OCD is a combination of obsessive and compulsive behavior, not everyone experiences both symptoms. In other words, some people are merely obsessed about thoughts while others are compulsive in their actions. Then, there are those who struggle with both. Although individuals living with this mental health condition wish they could stop, they have virtually no control.
Examples of this mental health issue
One of the best ways to understand OCD is by looking at some examples of how it affects people in their daily lives:
- Washing hands over and over throughout the day, often, hundreds of times
- Locking and unlocking the front door a certain number of times
- Counting and recounting money
- Clicking the teeth a specific number of times
- Unwanted and unpleasant sexual images
- Thoughts of hurting themselves or someone else
- Fear of saying something inappropriate while out in public
For people with OCD, life can become almost unbearable. In most cases, compulsion and obsession start during childhood, as a teen or while a young adult. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over two percent of people in the United States alone receive a diagnosis of OCD during their lifetime.
Although a treatable form of mental illness, doctors are not quite sure what leads up to the development of OCD. What they do know is that the brain has something to do with it. Researchers discovered that the brain does not respond to serotonin as it should. Some believe that genetics play a role. Studies show that if a parent or sibling has OCD, a close member of the family has as much as a 25 percent chance of developing it as well.
Diagnosis and treatment
For help with OCD, an individual would need to seek help from either a therapist or psychiatrist who works in this field of medicine. To make a diagnosis, a patient must present certain things. These include having compulsions, obsessions or both and struggling to maintain relationships. Other indicators consist of having trouble working and experiencing various disruptions that last, at a minimum, one hour per day.
As for treating OCD, a therapist or psychiatrist typically takes a multifaceted approach. Medication that increases the level of serotonin in the brain often helps. Psychotherapy is another beneficial treatment. Most often, a doctor provides cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which works by changing a patient’s thoughts. Exposure and response therapy (ERT) is also beneficial.
Overcoming the effects of OCD
If you have any of the telltale signs of OCD, it is important that you see a therapist or psychiatrist. With an examination, the doctor can diagnose this mental illness. From there, they will determine the type of treatment that you need.
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