Obsessive-compulsive disorder often centers around themes, such as a fear of getting contaminated by germs. To ease your contamination fears, you may compulsively wash your hands until they're sore and
chapped. Despite your efforts, thoughts of obsessive-compulsive
behavior keep coming back. This leads to more ritualistic behavior — and a vicious cycle that's characteristic of obsessive-compulsive
· Biology. OCD may be a result of changes in your body's own natural chemistry or brain functions. OCD also may have a genetic component, but specific genes have yet to be identified.
· Environment. OCD may stem from behavior-related habits that you learned over time.
· Insufficient serotonin. An insufficient level of serotonin, one of your brain's chemical messengers, may contribute to obsessive-compulsive disorder. In addition, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder who take medications that improve the action of serotonin often have fewer OCD symptoms.
Factors that may increase the risk of developing or triggering
obsessive-compulsive disorder include:
· Family history. Having parents or other family members with the disorder can increase your risk of developing OCD.
· Stressful life events. If you tend to react strongly to stress, your risk may increase. This reaction may, for some reason,
trigger the intrusive thoughts, rituals and emotional distress characteristic of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent and unwanted ideas,
thoughts, images or impulses that you have involuntarily and that seem to make no sense. These obsessions typically intrude when you're trying to think of or do other things.
Obsessions often have themes to them, such as:
· Fear of contamination or dirt
· Having things orderly and symmetrical
· Aggressive or horrific impulses
· Sexual images or thoughts
Obsession Symptoms may include:
· Fear of being contaminated by shaking hands or by touching objects others have touched
· Doubts that you've locked the door or turned off the stove
· Thoughts that you've hurt someone in a traffic accident
· Intense stress when objects aren't orderly or facing the right way
· Images of hurting your child
· Impulses to shout obscenities in inappropriate situations
· Avoidance of situations that can trigger obsessions, such as shaking hands
· Replaying pornographic images in your mind
· Dermatitis because of frequent hand washing
· Skin lesions because of picking at your skin
· Hair loss or bald spots because of hair pulling
OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel driven to perform. These repetitive behaviors are meant to prevent or reduce anxiety related to your obsessions. For instance, if you believe you hit someone with your car, you may return to the apparent scene over and over because you just can't shake your doubts. You may also make up rules or rituals to follow that help control the
anxiety you feel when having obsessive thoughts.
As with obsessions, compulsions typically have themes, such as:
· Washing and cleaning
· Demanding reassurances
· Performing the same action repeatedly
Compulsion symptoms and signs may include:
· Hand washing until your skin becomes raw
· Checking doors repeatedly to make sure they're locked
· Checking the stove repeatedly to make sure it's off
· Counting in certain patterns
· Arranging your canned goods to face the same way
Symptoms usually begin gradually and tend to vary in severity throughout your life. Symptoms generally worsen during times when you're experiencing more stress. OCD is considered a lifelong illness.