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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an often-misunderstood mental health condition. While many people relate it to attention to detail or a need for cleanliness, the actual reality for people living with OCD is rarely that simple.

More accurately, mental health professionals recognize OCD by its hallmark of obsessive, unwanted thoughts. In these cases, people feel driven to act on these compulsions, even if they know that these behaviors cannot logically affect the world around them. For example, an individual may have obsessive thoughts telling them to take a long shower before work each morning or risk having a car accident. Even if the individual can tell that there is no worldly correlation between these two events, they may feel forced to follow the compulsion anyway.

As you might imagine, this can greatly hinder daily life for people with OCD. Because OCD can be so disturbing and burdensome for its sufferers, mental health treatment is uniformly encouraged for people in this situation. But before we discuss treatment options, let’s look at the signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Signs of OCD

As demonstrated above, intrusive thoughts serve as the primary sign of OCD. However, these intrusive thoughts are often more disturbing and jarring than most people realize.

People with OCD first develop obsessions, which are thoughts or impulses that recur often and feel outside of their control. And while “obsession” is a common word, these feelings go far beyond the everyday understanding of that word. While someone may be “obsessed” with a new TV show, they can still stop to go meet friends or go to work. If you have OCD, however, stepping away from your obsession can feel impossible until you have finished acting upon the impulse.

Often, individuals with OCD experience feelings of fear, disgust, or a compulsion to do act on their obsession in a specific manner. As a result, OCD tends to take a lot of time from people and stop them from leading active, healthy lives. The compulsion is how an individual feels compelled to react to their obsession, and compulsions can be as varied as the individuals themselves.

obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms

For example, a common obsession for individuals with OCD is concern over family and friends being injured. As a response to this obsession, they may develop a compulsion, or a behavior that will stop their obsession from happening. This can manifest as frequent hand washing, repeating body movements like blinking or touching, counting while performing tasks and ending on a self-designated “safe” number, or any number of other behaviors.

If these descriptions feel familiar to you, or a loved one has described similar experiences, then you may be looking at a case of OCD. Behavioral signs of OCD include staying home often, frequently canceling plans, or other forms of self-isolation.

Now that you have an understanding of what OCD is and how it manifests, it’s time to consider the causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What Causes OCD?

Currently, there are no proven causes of OCD. However, some preliminary research does point to a few possible risk factors. These include:

  • Brain Structure: In some people with OCD, researchers have observed that the outer portion of their brains have trouble communicating with the deeper parts of their brains.
  • Genetics: While nobody has successfully identified an “OCD gene,” scientists have noted that this mental illness tends to run in families. However, two parents with OCD are not guaranteed to have a child with OCD, so further study is needed.
  • Early Life: When children observe unchecked OCD symptoms in a close family member, they may begin to develop signs of OCD themselves. This could be the reason that OCD runs in families, but has not been conclusively proven to be genetic.

Ultimately, nobody has a proven way to prevent the development of OCD. Instead, we must focus on treating those who live with this condition and work to improve their quality of life.

How to Treat OCD

OCD treatments

In severe cases of OCD, following compulsions can take hours each day, making living with untreated OCD a time-consuming process. Because this mental health condition becomes such a staple in everyday life, one of the most effective ways to treat it is through inpatient mental health programming. In this way, you’ll be able to replace your unhealthy daily patterns with more constructive behaviors.

At The Blackberry Center, we employ several key therapeutic techniques to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. Among these evidence-based treatments are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This unique form of talk therapy helps individuals with OCD replace their daily compulsions with new, healthier behaviors. By directly addressing harmful thought patterns, CBT is commonly regarded as the most effective treatment for OCD.
  • Medication Management: Sometimes, OCD can be partially caused by a lack of serotonin, an important chemical messenger in the brain. At The Blackberry Center, you will undergo a thoroughly, friendly evaluation by our medical staff to determine if a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) can reduce your OCD symptoms. Additionally, this evaluation will ensure that your current medications do not cause or exacerbate your symptoms.
  • Family Therapy: Sometimes, family support can make all the difference when recovering from a mental health condition. This treatment modality will help you and your family come together to repair relationships and discuss how they can best support you following treatment.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment: In many cases, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder will self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, which can quickly devolve into a substance use disorder. For these individuals, they need dual diagnosis treatment that addresses their co-occurring mental health condition and addiction issues.

OCD Does Not Define You

Engaging in compulsive behaviors is not the sum of who you are. At The Blackberry Center, we value you as a unique individual in need of help. All you have to do is reach out.

If you have questions about our treatments for OCD, call our admissions specialists at 1-888-512-9802 or fill out a confidential contact form. Let us help you take back control of your life and begin on the path to mental health recovery.

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