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Obsessive compulsive disorder

Learn more about obsessive-compulsive disorder and possible treatments.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) - definition and symptoms

Definition of OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the anxiety disorders. It manifests in obsessions, pervasive thoughts that cause fear and anxiety for the subject. They are also at the origin of compulsions: irrepressible desires to execute repetitive gestures or mental acts (example: counting, reciting a sentence internally …)

The expression of obsessive-compulsive disorder

The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder are both obsessions and compulsions made to respond to the latter.
The obsessions are repeated, pervasive and persistent. It can be a fear of germs and bacterias, the stress of seeing an object “out of its place”, the fear of improperly closing a door etc …
Compulsions are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety related to obsession. They can take the form of rituals or repetitive tasks such as cleaning, tidying up, washing hands all day, repeating a word or a sentence, respecting order and symmetry …

The origin of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

There are genetic factors that can cause an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It seems that OCD is due to a lack of serotonin in the brain. However, a multitude of other biological, genetic and environmental factors can be at the root of these disorders.
OCD can also appear following certain bacterial infections contracted during childhood or after an injury to the skull (example: streptococcal infections).

Obsessive compulsive disorder - key figures and data

Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects 3% of the population regardless of origin or gender. However, it appears that men tend to suffer more from sexual obsessions as well as obsessions about symmetry and accuracy. Women, on the other hand, would see their obsessions turn more toward hygiene rituals.
The average age of onset of OCD is between 21 and 35 years for adults. They can also appear during childhood, between 3 months and 10 years old.

Obsessive compulsive disorder - what support ?

When OCD disrupts the patient’s daily life, he or she can be assisted via cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy. If this type of support proves ineffective, treatment with an antidepressant or clomipramine can also provide partial improvement.