Obsessive compulsive disorder is a potentially disabling illness that traps you in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and actions. These thoughts emerge from recurring fears that they cannot control. These thoughts produce anxiety which compels them to perform certain actions. These actions are performed to prevent the obsessive thoughts. And the cycle continues.
The compulsive behavior gets to a point that it hampers normal behavior in daily lives of OCD patients.
The action that they perform provides only temporary relief, but cannot completely eliminate the symptoms. Some of the most common obsessions and compulsions are:
- Fear of dirt or contamination and the compulsion that follows is the repetitive washing of hands or showering.
- Fear of causing harm to another person and the compulsion includes refusing to shake hands or touch door knobs.
- Fear of making mistakes and the compulsion includes checking and rechecking things such as door locks or stoves etc.
Although cause of OCD has not been understood yet, studies show that it is caused by combination biological and environmental factors.
Obsessive compulsive disorder can be caused by the blockage of pathways in the brain that deal with planning and judgment. The vulnerability to this disease is possibly inherited.
Environmental factors include changes in living situation, abuse, stress, relationship problems, death of a loved one etc.
OCD requires active participation of the patient too. It will not just go away by itself. There are two approaches to treat OCD – behavioural therapy and medication
Behavioural therapy: The main aim of this kind of therapy is to help patients with OCD to confront their fears by teaching them methods to control their actions and reduce anxiety. This is called as exposure therapy. The focus is to reduce the exaggerated behavior that results from compulsions to do something.
Medication therapy: Antidepressants are used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder. The doctor will analyze the root cause of your behavior and then decide the medication that is required.
Surgical Treatment: Psychosurgery includes four different targets that include anterior capsule (AC), CG, Subcaudatetractotomy and Limbic leucotomy. The AC and CG are considered as the most common targets for OCD treatment by surgery. The methods used are of two types:
- By performing a lesion
- Stimulation of these targets using Deep Brain Stimulation)
In the first method, radio frequency is used to destroy a thermal lesion of a certain volume. This kind of treatment is permanent and is generally irreversible. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is also used to treat OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder). This is done by inserting electrodes in the brain to the affected area.
In severe cases, where the patients do not respond to behavior therapy or to any of the medication provided, ECT is used. ECT is electroconvulsive therapy. This is done by passing current through the electrodes that are placed on the scalp. This is done under general anesthesia.
It is observed that most of the cases of OCD are treatable with medication or behavior therapy or a combination of both.
It is important that patient continues the treatment until it is cured. Do not leave the treatment half way; this is because OCD cannot go away just by itself. Nor can OCD be prevented. However, early diagnosis and subsequent treatment can greatly reduce the time a patient suffers through this disease.
With ongoing treatment can help patients achieve long term relief from symptoms and return to normal life sooner.