You might have watched Jack Nicholson’s performance at Melvin Udall in ‘As Good As It Gets”, where he plays the part of an obsessive-compulsive writer. The trials and tribulations of Melvin Udall were beautifully portrayed here, ending with all characters in the movie finding the true meaning behind the best part of life. Well, Melvin Udall might have existed on a film roll, but there are many more like him out there, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This is a common and disabling mental disorder, which is very common and quite undiagnosed and untreated. People suffering from OCD suffer from acute anxiety and are characterized by unwanted, recurrent thoughts (obsessions) usually along with repetitive or ritualistic behavior (compulsions). Hence the term “obsessive-compulsive disorder”. Read on the following paragraphs to know about the symptoms and causes of OCD.
Symptoms And Causes Of OCD
Symptoms Of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The sufferer is tormented with obsessions, in order to get relief from obsession-related anxiety. These obsessions could range from psychological to sexual intrusive images that can vary in clarity and vividness. In most cases, the sufferer is aware of the imbalance and is greatly disturbed by it. Obsessions could also involve personification of inanimate objects.
The sufferer feels that he/she must act compulsively in order to end the obsessive thought. Compulsions could range from the frequent washing of hands, the necessity to turn lights on and off a particular number of times, frequent clearing of the throat, or even down to walking in a particular way or disgust at touching people.
Causes Of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Anxiety-provoking intrusive thoughts have been found to instigate compulsive behavior. This behavior temporarily relieves the anxiety, but the anxiety recurs leading to repetition of the dysfunctional activity. A particular anxiety might surface, causing the sufferer to address it. For example, he might wonder whether his hands are dirty and might wash them. Then he might wonder whether he washed his hands properly and wash them again. He would also be distressed with thoughts of contamination and diseases, and would not want to touch anyone or anything, which he feels might cause spread of germs.
To put it in plain language, one of the biological causes of OCD is a chemical imbalance in the brain, which effects the transmission of messages from one neuron to another. In this case, the complete cycle of message transmission and response is not completed. For example, if the brain sends out a signal to the sufferer to switch off a light, even though the sufferer switches off the light, the signals that he has done so, do not reach the brain. This causes him to repeat the action until the brain impulse is satisfied. Another biological reason of OCD is abnormal brain development and subsequent malfunction. In this case, the various segments of the brain do not work in one accord and results in heightened anxiety.
Treatment Of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The sufferer, here, is trained not to perform the ritualistic behavior and therefore the tolerance level of anxiety goes up. For example, in this form of therapy, the sufferer would be exposed to a small amount of contamination, and then would face the challenge of not washing his hands. Once this is done successfully, they can progress to things that are more “contaminated” without washing. This has been proved to be the most effective treatment for OCD.
There are various medicines available that can prevent excess brain chemicals from being released, or, increase the chemical production, depending on each case. In some cases, nutrition deficiencies have been the cause of OCD symptoms. In this case vitamin supplements would help.
In this means of treatment, a lesion is made in the brain and deep brain stimulation or vagus nerve stimulation is carried out to ease the symptoms of OCD. This is usually carried out in extreme cases as a last resort.