Treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
One in 50 adult Americans is afflicted by irrational, intrusive, troublesome thoughts or images (obsessions) with or without the need to perform ritualized behaviors (compulsions). Referred to as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), it can be an extremely disabling condition that robs a person of life enjoyment and functionality. Obsessions are unwanted, recurrent, and disturbing thoughts which the person cannot suppress and which can cause overwhelming anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive, ritualized behaviors that the person feels driven to perform to alleviate the anxiety of the obsessions. The obsessive and compulsive rituals can occupy many hours of each day. In the early 19th century, the French called OCD the doubting madness. Today OCD continues to be referred to as the doubting disease, because a person with OCD doubts his or her own senses and thoughts. Depression is a frequent companion to OCD, as well as ADHD, and Tourette syndrome. Body dystrophic disorder, eating disorders, trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling), hypchrondriais, and other anxiety disorders are also associated with OCD. Seventy five percent of people who have OCD also report major episodes of depression and 68 percent of people who are diagnosed with Tourette syndrome also have OCD. Thirty percent of children and adolescents diagnosed with OCD also have ADHD.
The picture above represents the typical cycle of a person suffering from OCD. Obsessions cause anxiety, causing the sufferer to engage in compulsions in an attempt to alleviate the distress caused by the obsessions. Performing out these obsessions, or rituals, does not result in any lasting relief, and in fact, the OC symptoms worsen.
MOST COMMON OBSESSIONS
- Fear of contamination
- Fear of causing harm to another
- Fear of making a mistake
- Fear of behaving in a socially unacceptable manner
- Need for symmetry or exactness
- Excessive doubt
- Religious and sexual concerns
MOST COMMON COMPULSIONS
- Touching or tapping
What Causes OCD?
Researchers have identified specific areas of the brain that are affected: the orbitofrontal cortex, cingulate gyrus, and striatum. Brain imaging studies indicate that these areas are overactive in people with OCD. The disorder involves neurotransmitters — brain chemicals that carry impulses from one nerve cell to another — that behave abnormally in the affected areas of the brain. Serotonin is one important neurotransmitter involved in the disorder, as well as dopamine and glutamine. Stress alone does not cause OCD; however, a stressful event like the death of a loved one, birth of a child, or divorce can trigger the onset of the disorder. It may be safe to say that a person is born with a genetic predisposition to having OCD, which is often dormant until some stressful event occurs and triggers the OCD into an active phase. It is important for people who have OCD to learn how to deal with stress in healthy ways.
How Do You Treat OCD?
Standard treatment includes drug therapy, behavior therapy, or a combination of both has been used by traditional medicine. However, new research shows that neurotherapy can be quite effective. Neurotherapy improves the brain's ability to respond with healthy patterns of functioning. Although positive anecdotal reports are common, recently studies have been published verifying positive results for OCD patients. Cory Hammond, Ph.D., presented two cases he successfully treated with QEEG guided neurofeedback. Hammond used the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale, Y-BOCS, Padua inventory, and MMPI to track outcomes. At long term follow-up (13 to 15 months) positive results were still holding. At BrainAdvantage we know the connection that exists between the limbic system (emotional center of the brain) and the Frontal Cortex can be trained with our system. We train to calm this area and help the brain reach homeostasis.
What you Should Know about OCD
- OCD is a psychiatric illness recognized by experts throughout the world.
- OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms that can include powerful, unwanted, or recurrent thoughts and/or compulsive, repetitive behaviors.
- OCD is the fourth most common mental illness and affects over 4 million people in the United States.
- People with OCD are not “crazy,” although they may sometimes feel that way because they are troubled by thoughts and actions that they know are inappropriate.
- People with OCD are often anxious and depressed.
- People with OCD often believe they are the only ones who have irrational, obsessive thoughts, and are therefore often ashamed and afraid to tell anyone or to seek help. Diagnosis is delayed until these symptoms are “unmasked.”
- Having OCD is not a sign of weakness or a lack of willpower in stopping the thoughts and behaviors.
- Although the exact cause is not known, experts believe that OCD may be caused in part by an imbalance of a chemical in the brain called serotonin.
- OCD is a treatable disease; effective medications and neurotherapuetic techniques are available.
- There are many resources available for people with OCD and their loved ones.