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What causes obsessive compulsive disorder?

Although the exact cause of OCD is not fully understood, studies have shown that a combination of biological and environmental factors may be involved. Research has found that there is a link between low levels of serotonin and the development of OCD. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps move electrical impulses from one area of the brain to another. Studies have also found a link between a streptococcal bacterial infection and the occurrence and severity of clinical symptoms of OCD; this is called PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infection). Environmental factors include stress, change in living conditions, illness, and relationship concerns to name a few.

How common is OCD?

Although once thought to be rare, OCD afflicts as many as five million Americans, or one in fifty. This disorder does not discriminate; it is found uniformly among men, women, children, and people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds.

Why doesn't an individual with OCD just stop their behavior?

Those who suffer from OCD wish they could simply stop their behavior. However, the drive to perform their compulsive behaviors are so strong, they feel that if they don’t follow through then something terrible could happen. OCD can be extremely debilitating due to the intense anxiety that is experienced by the sufferer.

Is OCD acquired or are people born with it?

People are generally considered to have been born with a predisposition for OCD. This predisposition however does not always manifest itself. Sometimes the OCD is triggered by a traumatic or stressful event, but one must first have the predisposition toward OCD to develop the disorder.

What is the prognosis for OCD with treatment?

If the patient is determined and works hard, then the results can be very good. Up to 80% of OCD sufferers improve significantly with proper treatment of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.

Is it common for obsessions to change over time?

Yes, obsessions often change from one theme to another. However, a person can simply add new obsessions to old ones, and old obsessions can be replaced by newer ones as well.

What is a YBOCS?

The YBOCS, or Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale, is a scale clinicians use to grade the severity of OCD in a patient. It is based on the amount of time, distress, and control the person has related to their OC behaviors.

What can family and friends do to help?

Education about OCD is very important. Families and friends are encouraged to play a role in the treatment process by working closely with the therapist. They often get stuck enabling the OCD because their trying to help their loved one feel better, but if fact, they are usually reinforcing the problem. The therapist can help them understand how their behavior affects the functioning of OCD.

Do you have additional questions?

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