Obsessive compulsive disorder is psychiatric disorder characterized by anxiety-provoking intrusive thoughts and repetitive ritualistic behaviors. It ranks among the most disabling psychiatric disorders due to the difficulty patients have overcoming the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors in order to just get out the door in the morning and perform the tasks expected of them in their everyday lives. The obsessive component of the disorder consists of aggressive thoughts and impulses that constantly intrude in the patients mind, such as the common example of fears of contamination by germs or dirt. Compulsions are typically related in some fashion to the obsessive thoughts, such as ritualistic washing or counting behaviors. Typically performance of compulsive behaviors has an effect of neutralizing or diminishing the obsessive thoughts that bombard the OCD patient. OCD occurs in about 2%-3% of the US population and causes significant dysfunction in the lives of those it affects.
Quality of life is substantially lower in patients with OCD due to the embarrassment distress over their compulsive behaviors, not to mention the time consumed in performing them. Interpersonal relationships are particularly affected. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors make building relationships with with new friends, coworkers, or partners difficult or impossible. OCD behaviors even strain established relationships, such as those with family. Although the challenges OCD presents to normal social behavior may seem daunting, they are not insurmountable. Among OCD patients, one study found that two thirds of patients were able to achieve some improvement in their symptoms, and one in five patients were able to sustain some period of full remission of their disease.
Treatments approaches are many and include behavioral therapy
, medication, and even emerging approaches involving neurosurgical intervention and implantation
of neurostimulating devices. If you are not achieving good control of you OCD symptoms it is very important to follow up as soon as possible with a psychiatrist
who deals frequently with OCD patients for a full evaluation, as you may benefit from changes to your current treatments or a trial of a new treatment modality.