Causes and Effects of OCD

The signs, symptoms, and effects of OCD can be different for every person impacted. Learning about OCD is one of the first steps towards getting better.

Learn More About OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychological condition that occurs when an individual struggles with constant, anxious thoughts that lead to the execution of specific compulsive actions that serve as an effort to calm these thoughts. While individuals with OCD are trying to reduce their anxiety, the anxiety and compulsive behaviors they partake in are unrelenting and can be disruptive to their lives.

Those who develop OCD often display persistent behaviors that include repeating actions or words, counting, moving objects, and/or checking and rechecking items in a certain manner. In most cases, these compulsions do not actually address the individual’s obsessions or anxieties.

With the appropriate treatment, individuals who struggle with symptoms of OCD find alleviation from these thoughts and actions once and for all. Even the most severe cases of OCD can be treated through effective, comprehensive care.

Statistics

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 1.2% of the American population meets diagnostic criteria for OCD each year. Also, adult women have a stronger likelihood of developing this disorder, however, it is more common in men during childhood and adolescent years. Lastly, those who have OCD also tend to struggle with anxiety as well. Approximately 76% of those with OCD also have a diagnosis of one or more anxiety disorders.

Causes and Risk Factors for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

Genetic and environmental causes can add to one’s likelihood of developing OCD. However, additional causes are still being researched. Some possible risk factors and causes of OCD include:

Genetic: One’s genetic background is viewed as both a cause and a risk factor for OCD. If an individual has a relative with OCD, he or she is two times more likely to develop the same condition. Those with an immediate family member with OCD are ten times more likely to battle this condition as well.

Environmental: Physical and sexual trauma or abuse during childhood can add to one’s chances of developing OCD. Infections and autoimmune diseases can also serve as an OCD risk factor.

Risk Factors:

  • Being overly self-conscious
  • Being plagued by negative thoughts and emotions
  • Traumatic life experiences
  • Family history of mental health disorders
  • Physical or sexual abuse during childhood

Signs and Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Similar to other mental illnesses, the signs and symptoms of OCD can vary from person to person. Keep in mind the following:

Symptoms of obsessions: When an individual battles obsessions, he or she experiences persistent anxious and intrusive thoughts that, in some instances, the individuals know are irrational. These obsessions can develop in response to personal concerns and may include the following types of obsessions:

  • Creating symmetry and balance
  • Illnesses of others or oneself
  • Terrifying events, trauma, or accidents
  • Practices and requirements based on religion or beliefs
  • Unwanted thoughts
  • Germs, viruses, and pollution that can cause illness

Symptoms of compulsions: An individual will develop compulsive behavior in an attempt to manage his or her obsessions and the anxiety linked to their obsessions. However, compulsions might not be connected to obsessions. Symptoms of compulsions can include the following:

  • Saying words out loud or in one’s head and repeating them
  • Avoiding situations, places, and certain scenarios
  • Counting and numbering things
  • Frequent hand-washing or cleaning one’s body or environment
  • Checking on light switches, burners, electric connections, and door locks repeatedly
  • Keeping items in order and organized

Effects of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

If an individual with OCD symptoms does not receive treatment, their condition can grow worse and elicit negative consequences, such as:

  • Substance use and abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • Symptoms that worsen over time
  • Problems with maintaining or excelling in one’s professional or academic life
  • Financial troubles
  • Conflict and loss of relationships with friends and family
  • Physical signs such as skin wounds from too much washing
  • Development or worsening of mental health disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

Those with OCD might also struggle with other mental health conditions. Other mental illnesses that present as co-occurring disorders alongside OCD can include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Tic disorder
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Trichotillomania
  • Substance use disorders
  • Tourette’s disorder

These mental health conditions can increase complications with OCD. However, with effective treatment, an individual can achieve recovery.

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