ZocdocAnswersWhat causes obsessive compulsive disorder?

Question

What causes obsessive compulsive disorder?

My elderly mother has been drifting farther and farther toward what I think a doctor would probably call obsessive compulsive behavior. I want to address this problem at its root. What is causing this behavior? Could it be her changing social world, or stress? Is it just getting older?

Answer

Obsessive compulsive disorder can sometimes be diagnosed by primary care physicians or a psychiatrist. It is a very common and treatable disease, but currently no cure is available. Obsessive compulsive disorder is defined as a mental disease in which the patient has spontaneous, uncontrollable thoughts and urges that intrude the brain (obsessions) that make someone want to do something (compulsions) to relieve the feeling of the urge. One example is checking to make sure the door is locked. A person may know they locked the door, but the obsession of making sure it is locked still intrudes the brain. No amount of logic can prevent this obsession. The obsession is only relieved by checking the door to make sure it is locked. This cycle can continue. Patients know that what they are doing is unreasonable, but nevertheless cannot control it. It is typically treated with either an SSIR (example fluoxetine or Prozac), or a TCA (example amitripyline or Elavil). My suggestion is that you have your mother visit with her primary care physician. She can describe her symptoms to him or her and may get a referral to a psychiatrist for further evaluation and treatment. Good luck.

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