As Good As It Gets?: An Examination Of The Mechanism And Mode Of Treatment Of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, often referred to as simply OCD, is a mental illness in which an individual experiences endless cycles of repeated thoughts and rituals, known as obsessions and compulsions, which she feels she cannot control (1). Although many people possess habits and routines that help them organize their every day schedules, people with OCD form patterns of behavior that are extremely time-consuming and interfere with their daily lives. Once believed to be a rare and incurable disease which people kept hidden for fear of embarrassment (2), OCD is now recognized as being far more common than previously believed, affecting both men and women, and people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds equally (3). In fact, recent studies have shown that about 2.5% of the population have this disorder at some point in their lives (2), with between 3 to 5 million Americans affected with the disorder each year (3). Though OCD is a chronic illness that can take over a person's life if left untreated (1), a strict regiment involving proper medication and effective treatment can vastly improve the OCD sufferer's condition.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is composed of two major constituents evident in its very name - obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurring thoughts or impulses that seem to invade one's mind despite attempts to ignore or suppress them (4). Though these thoughts range from the tedious and seemingly innocuous sort, to the shameful and morbid kind, all are generally viewed as senseless and are accompanied by anxiety to some degree (4). Some common examples of obsessions include: fear of germs or contaminants, fear of aggressive sexual impulses towards one's self or others, thoughts of harming one's self or others, and doubting reality (for example, a person doubting whether or not she turned off the stove before she left the house, even though she made sure she did several times) (4).
The second major component of OCD are compulsions, or voluntary, irresistible actions that are apparently stereotyped or ritualistic (4). Approximately 80% of all OCD sufferers experience compulsions along with obsessions (4), while only 20% experience one of the two. A person with OCD may be driven to perform the compulsive act in order to produce or prevent another situation from happening. In most cases, the compulsive person is aware that the act is meaningless or unreasonable, however, avoiding the urge to perform the act often leads to unsurpassable amounts of stress and anxiety (4). Only when the act is carried out is the person's anxiety once again relieved. Examples of compulsions include: hand washing or wearing gloves, ordering and arranging items in specific ways, and checking rituals involving locks and appliances (2).
Strong evidence suggests that OCD has both psychological and biological...