Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a serious disorder that, as its name implies, is characterized by two phenomena: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are defined as recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses or images that cause anxiety or discomfort. The individual attempts to ignore or suppress these thoughts with some other thought or by performing a compulsion or ritual.

The fear of contamination, of harming others accidentally or intentionally, of making a serious mistake (such as leaving a stove on, leaving a door open, or throwing something important in the trash), and of contracting a disease are some examples of the most common obsessions.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors usually performed in response to obsessions.37 The most frequent compulsions are cleaning (to reduce fear of contamination by germs, dirt or chemicals), repeating (names, phrases or behaviors to dissipate anxiety), checking ( to reduce the fear of hurting someone by forgetting, for example, to turn off the gas on the stove), order and organize (to reduce discomfort, some people line up books in a certain order, for example). Mental compulsions, such as silently praying or repeating phrases, are also common, again to reduce anxiety.38

All people feel the need, at some point, to check if the doors have been closed properly, for example. It is therefore essential to establish some diagnostic criteria to differentiate normal behavior from something that could be considered a disease. It can only be considered OCD when the obsessions or compulsions significantly interfere with the individual’s normal routines and when they occupy a considerable part of the day (at least one hour per day).39

The most common treatment for OCD is the combination of medication with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a type of psychotherapy that has proven to be very effective in treating this pathology.