OCD is an extremely debilitating condition that causes the patient distress and a reduction in quality of life. It often responds poorly to medication therapy. OCD is slightly more common among women than men and it affects about 1 to 2% of the population. The mean age of onset for OCD is 19 to 20 years, but about 25% of cases begin by the age of 14.

Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that usually cause marked distress or anxiety. Compulsions are excessive, repetitive rituals that people feel they must do to reduce the anxiety caused by their obsessive thoughts or to neutralize their obsessions. Obsessions and compulsions must be time-consuming (e.g.:> 1 h/day, often much more) or cause patients significant distress or impairment in functioning. About half of the people with OCD have suicidal thoughts at some point, and up to one fourth attempt suicide as well. Risk of an attempt is increased if people also have a major depressive disorder.

The onset of OCD usually occurs in adolescence or early adulthood. OCD strikes people from all walks of life and all levels of education. A hallmark of OCD is that the person recognizes that her thoughts or behaviors are senseless or excessive. However, the drive can be so powerful that the person caves into the compulsion even though she knows it makes no sense. One woman spent hours each evening sifting through the household trash to ensure that nothing valuable was being discarded. When asked what she was looking for, she nervously admitted, “I have no idea, I don’t own anything valuable.” Some people who have had OCD for a long time may stop resisting their compulsive drives because they feel it’s just easier to give in to them.

OCD can affect people in different ways. Some people may spend much of their day carrying out various compulsions and be unable to get out of the house or manage normal activities. Others may appear to be coping with day-to-day life while still suffering a huge amount of distress from obsessive thoughts. Some people with OCD may carry out their rituals and compulsions in secret or make excuses to avoid social interaction so they can complete compulsions.

The severity of OCD differs markedly from one person to another.  Some individuals may be able to hide their OCD from their own family. However, the disorder may have a major negative impact on social relationships leading to frequent family and marital discord or dissatisfaction, separation or divorce.  It also interferes with leisure activities and with a person’s ability to study or work, leading to diminished educational or occupational attainment and unemployment.

Diagnosis of OCD is clinical, based on the presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both. It can’t be diagnosed using a blood sample, X-ray, or other medical tests. There is no reliable diagnostic test for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The diagnosis is usually based on a thorough face-to-face interview conducted by an experienced mental health professional.

 It is treated by gradually exposing patients to situations that trigger the anxiety-provoking obsessions and rituals while requiring them not to perform their rituals. Giving an SSRI or clomipramine may also help. Cognitive therapy techniques may also be useful in targeting some OCD symptoms. ERP therapy used in conjunction with medication often results in a greater response. Combining exposure and ritual prevention with drug therapy is best, especially for most severe cases.

 In conclusion: OCD is a tough disorder to live with. We all may think that OCD can have an easy fix and that it really isn’t that hard to live with. But the reality is that it is not, as it affects almost every aspect of person’s life whether it can be the interactions with family and friends or simple everyday tasks that we all take for granted.

Submitted by “Sadia Saeed Jarral”