Causes & Effects of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

When an individual experiences intrusive thoughts or feels compelled to carry out rituals or behaviors to lessen anxiety, he or she may have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Symptoms of this mental health disorder are unwanted and can cause tremendous upset during an individual’s daily functioning. The obsessions that are characteristic of this disorder be extremely distressing, and can force an individual to engage in what may appear to an observer to be strange or meaningless behaviors in order to experience momentary solace. Additionally, the compulsive side of OCD can cause an individual to suffer from repetitive actions, which are referred to as rituals, which others who are not afflicted with this condition might not understand.

There are numerous individuals who struggle with OCD alongside a co-occurring eating disorder. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that the rates of OCD are increased in those who are battling with eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. This co-occurring issue can cause individuals to struggle with a series of negative repercussions. Luckily, there are treatment options available that can relieve the upsetting symptoms of OCD and help individuals defeat their negative patterns of eating so they can obtain a healthy way of living. With the correct treatment, those who battle with these conditions can learn how to diffuse their dysfunctional thoughts, compulsions, and manage their anxiety.  In doing so, those with OCD and co-occurring eating disorders can reclaim their lives.

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Statistics

Obsessive-compulsive disorder impacts both men and women at equal rates, and is approximated to impact 1% of those living in the United States. Researchers have found that 25% of those who are diagnosed with OCD begin showing symptoms around 14, however the average age of onset of symptoms is 19.

Causes and Risk Factors for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The causes and risk factors connected to OCD are said to be linked to one’s genetics. In addition, experts believe that specific environmental factors can impact one’s likelihood of developing symptoms of OCD. A further explanation of these causes and risk factors include:

Genetics: Like other mental health conditions, OCD is said to run in families. Those who have at least one biological parent with OCD are at a greater risk for developing similar symptoms at some point in their lives. In addition, if an individual has a family history of anxiety disorders, his or her risk for developing OCD is increased.

Environmental: Mental health experts report that one’s environment can bring about feelings that lend themselves to the development of OCD. Some of these environments can includes those that foster abuse or neglect, violence, and exposure to trauma. It has been deduced that symptoms can develop in a child who is being raised by one or more people who are not involved during their formative years.

Risk Factors:

  • Partaking in unhealthy relationships
  • Having caregivers that were not involved during childhood
  • Having a poor support system
  • Experiencing the unexpected loss of a loved one
  • Exposure to chronic stress or trauma
  • Experiencing abrupt life changes
  • Family history of obsessive-compulsive disorder or other mental health conditions
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Being the victim of crime, abuse, or neglect

Signs and Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

There are two specific forms of symptoms that can present themselves through OCD. Those with this condition can experience obsessions and compulsions, with some individuals having more obsessions than compulsions, and vice versa. The presence of any of the symptoms below could show that an individual is struggling with OCD:

Obsessive symptoms: Those who have obsessions will battle with intrusive and unwanted thoughts that can impact the way in which individuals are able to live their lives. Some of the symptoms of obsessions can include:

  • Impulsions to be aggressive, though these impulsions are more ideas than actions
  • Disturbing thoughts that are graphic in nature
  • Irrational, excessive, and specific worries about the symmetry, order, and/or arrangement of objects
  • Intense fears pertaining to dirt, germs, and/or the risk of contamination
  • Overwhelming feelings of responsibility for others

Compulsive symptoms: The compulsive symptoms of OCD can include behaviors that focus on performing rituals, such as:

  • Frequently checking to make sure something has been done or remains in a state that eases perceived anxiety, even though anxious feelings remain
  • Repetitious speech
  • Spending a great deal of time rearranging items
  • Hoarding
  • Ritualized eating habits
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Repeatedly washing one’s hands or bathing
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

This particular mental health condition can cause an exceptional amount of distress in an individual’s life. When treatment for this condition is not obtained, symptoms tend to grow worse. Therefore, it is critical that individuals who battle with OCD obtain the proper treatment to avoid the development of adverse consequences. Below are some of the negative effects of what can happen if an individual does not obtain the correct treatment for OCD:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Attempts at suicide
  • Development of a substance abuse problem
  • Self-harm
  • Inability to maintain employment
  • Development of another mental health condition
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Decline in academic or occupational functioning
  • Academic failure

Co-Occurring Disorders

OCD tends to simultaneously co-occur with other mental illnesses. Those who battle with eating disorders, including anorexia or bulimia, tend to be more likely to struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. In addition to eating disorders, other mental health illness can occur parallel to OCD, including:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Specific phobias
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance use disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
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