Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, impulses (obsessions, repetitive behavior and mental rituals) or compulsions. People with OCD are usually aware that their symptoms are irrational and excessive, but they find the obsessions uncontrollable and the compulsions difficult or impossible to resist. Signs and symptoms Common obsessions include fear of germs and dirt, fear of harm to self or others, images and concerns with symmetry, illness or religious issues; and intrusive sexual thoughts. Common compulsions are washing, cleaning, checking, hoarding, touching, counting and repeating routine activities and actions. Causes The cause of OCD is not fully understood. It may be related to chemical, structural or functional abnormalities in the brain, as well as genetic and hereditary factors. Each person’s OCD is the result of several interacting factors, and aggravated by stressful life events, hormonal changes and personality traits. Treatment Options Treatment includes medication, cognitive behavior therapy, community support and recovery programs. A combination of treatments, plus a skilled and experienced clinician, support and education will produce the best results. Medication - Drugs can help restore the chemical balance of the brain, thus controlling obsessions and compulsions. Cognitive behavior therapy - A doctor, psychologist or health professional talks with the person about OCD symptoms and discusses alternative ways of thinking and coping with them. Community support and recovery programs - Support groups provide an environment where people with OCD and their families can meet. Information is provided, along with self-help and coping strategies. Understanding and acceptance by the community is very important.
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