Putting away food after grocery shopping is annoying for many people, but not you. You must have boxes and cans arranged a certain way, and perishable items are stored in such a way that you can see which ones expire first. Are you a perfectionist, or do you have OCD?

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.”

If you suffer from OCD, you’re not alone. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that it affects about 1.2 percent of adults.

What Causes OCD?

No one knows for sure what causes OCD, but the best guess is multiple factors are at play, such as:

  • Biology plays a role. OCD is caused by changes in the body’s own organic chemistry or brain functions.
  • Genetics. OCD symptoms may include a genetic component, but the same genes haven’t been identified.
  • Learning’s also a possibility. Compulsive behaviors and obsessive fears can be acquired by observing family members or slowly learned over time.

Examples Of OCD Symptoms

People who suffer from OCD may exhibit symptoms of compulsions, obsessions, or both. Some can be managed with therapy such as ketamine infusion or esketamine nasal sprays, but such symptoms may play havoc with all facets of your life, like school, work, and personal relations.

Obsessions are characterized by recurring thoughts, desires, or mental pictures which result in anxiety. Watch for these common symptoms, including:

  • Fear of germs or infection
  • Obsession with undesirable forbidden or offensive thoughts
  • Hostile thoughts about yourself or someone else
  • Requiring everyday objects be placed  in symmetrical or perfect order

Compulsions refer to repetitive actions that someone with OCD has the urge to complete as a response to an obsessive thought. Examples include:

  • Unnecessary cleaning or washing your hands
  • Ordering and placing something in a specific, precise way
  • Repetitively validating something, like repeatedly checking to verify if your door is locked or that you turned the oven off
  • Compulsive counting

But not all of these are compulsions. We all double-check facts and figures sometimes. Someone with OCD, however, generally:

  • Can’t manage thoughts or behaviors, even when they’re recognized as extreme
  • Accumulates at least an hour each day on these behaviors or thoughts 
  • Can’t derive pleasure when completing the actions or rituals, though there may be some respite from the worry the thoughts cause
  • Experiences significant problems in everyday life because of these behaviors or thoughts 

Like other kinds of mental illness, OCD features common risk factors that most people could recognize in themselves or someone else:

  • Your family history. If you have parents or other family members who exhibit the disorder, you may be more likely to get OCD.
  • Tense life events are another risk factor. If you’ve been exposed to traumatic or nerve-wracking events, your risk may increase. These triggers can cause the intrusive thoughts, habits, and psychological distress associated with OCD, but we don’t know why.
  • Another mental health illness. OCD could be linked to other mental health conditions, like anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or something else.

There’s no surefire method to stop obsessive-compulsive disorder from happening. But getting help quickly can keep OCD from getting worse and disrupting events and your everyday routine. Many people with OCD lead productive lives, but it takes effort and commitment. Having the condition also means that you may be susceptible to other conditions, like body dysmorphic disorder.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you experience OCD symptoms, you’ll need to be diagnosed before treatment begins. Diagnosis will likely involve a psychological assessment to talk about thoughts, feelings, symptoms, and behavior patterns to see if they restrict your quality of life. A physical exam also is a possibility, where a doctor will look for any underlying medical reason for your OCD symptoms. The final diagnosis relies on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria from the American Psychiatric Association.

After diagnosis, your doctor or therapist could recommend multiple kinds of therapy, often at the same time, like ketamine infusion and psychotherapy.

Final Thoughts

OCD features compulsive and obsessive symptoms, and none of them should be ignored. It’s a condition affecting millions of U.S. adults each year, but it’s also one that can be treated. Your doctor may recommend self-help strategies, but a more likely option is psychotherapy combined with medicine or ketamine treatment.

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