Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, from now on OCD, is a disorder that, to different degrees, has a high prevalence. In addition, cases have increased as a result of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.
For this reason, in today’s post we are going to define what OCD is, we will discuss its prevalence, what types exist, what other OCD-related disorders there are, what are the consequences and what are the most common treatments.
INDEX OF CONTENTS
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What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
As Botella and Robert (2009) mention, it is important to analyze the etiology of the words “obsessive” and “compulsive”, since by analyzing it we can understand a little better what OCD is.
- obsessive. It is a word that comes from Latin and means “siege” and this is defined as: “idea that persecutes or annoys someone” or as “stubbornness, tenacity or obstinacy”.
- Compulsive. It is also a word that comes from Latin and means: “person who has irresistible impulses.”
From the above we can conclude that It is a disorder in which there are bothersome ideas (obstinacy) and irresistible impulses.
If we make use of the diagnostic manual of mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2013) we can see that they define obsessions and compulsions as:
- Obsessions. Thoughts, impulses or images that appear in an intrusive way and that generate anxiety.
- Compulsions. Mental acts (counting, praying, etc.) or repetitive behaviors that are carried out to eliminate the anxiety that obsessive thoughts produce.
Likewise, this manual also details that, in order to be considered OCD, it must cause discomfort that affects different areas of the person. That is to say, it produces a significant deterioration at a social, family, work, academic level, etc.
What is its prevalence?
There are many investigations that have studied the prevalence of this disorder. We are going to consult one of the most recent, such as the Fawcett et al. These researchers conducted a study in 2020 and concluded that the worldwide prevalence for this disorder is 1.1%. They also established that women are 1.6 more likely to have OCD than men.
What types are there? Are there other related disorders?
There are several authors who have analyzed the clinical manifestations or types of OCD that exist. Marks (1987; cited in Botella and Robert, 2009) mentions that there are the following:
- Cleaning. Being the most common type. In this, what happens is that the affected people are afraid and avoid places where there may be dirt or contamination. They also perform cleaning rituals and can spend many hours a day cleaning.
- Repetition. It is the second most common. In this case, different actions are repeated over and over again.
- Verification. In third place we have the verification rituals. Affected people check different things over and over again in order to make sure they have quit correctly. For example, they check the gas key or that they have closed the door.
- Order. They constantly order objects because it affects them to see them disordered.
Although these are the main ones, we also find obsessions of a sexual or homosexual, religious, relational (related to emotional dependence), impulse phobia, perfectionism, etc
In addition, there are other disorders that are related to OCD, such as: body dysmorphic disorder, hoarding, trichotillomania (pulling out hair) or eating disorder excoriation (compulsively scratching the skin) (APA, 2013).
What are the consequences?
As you can imagine, all of the above causes a lot of discomfort in the people affected. The most common are:
- A lot waste of time doing the rituals or compulsions
- Health problems associated, for example, by constantly washing your hands
- Issues to go to job or to the center of studies
- Social isolation
All of the above causes a decreased quality of life and significant interference in the course of activities of daily living.
Which is the treatment?
There are different treatments for OCD. In this section we will discuss the most common and those highlighted by the International OCD Foundation (International OCD Foundation).
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It is the type of psychological therapy that we use at PsicoGlobal. It is made up of different types of techniques and the one that has shown the most efficacy for the treatment of OCD is that of “Exposure with Response Prevention” or EPR. This technique consists of gradually exposing yourself to those situations that are the object of the obsessions without performing the compulsion.
- Pharmacology. The drugs that are usually used to treat OCD are antidepressants. Like, for example, Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine or Escitalopram.
Regarding the efficacy data, there are studies that show that CBT is very effective for the treatment of OCD. For example, a study carried out by Martínez and Piqueras (2010) concludes that improvement in symptoms occurs in 50-80% of cases. The International OCD Association, for its part, states that patients who do CBT reduce symptoms between 60 and 80%.
Another aspect to note is that there are other types of therapy for the treatment of OCD, such as electroconvulsive therapy.
Likewise, it is important to take into account that, on many occasions, both types of therapy, CBT and pharmacology, are used to treat OCD and that both in combination also have good efficacy data.
As we have seen, OCD is a fairly prevalent disorder that is characterized by the presence of obsessions and compulsions. On the one hand, obsessions are intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety and, on the other hand, compulsions are behaviors or mental acts that are carried out with the aim of reducing the anxiety that the former produce. The time invested in compulsions, anxiety and other associated consequences decrease the quality of life of these people. One of the most effective treatments is CBT in which RPE has proven to be one of the most beneficial techniques for the treatment of this disorder.
As a reflection, I would like to comment that it is a fairly prevalent disorder and that cases of OCD of the “cleaning/contamination” type have increased as a result of COVID. Therefore, special attention should be paid to this.
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- American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
- Bottle, C and Robert, C. (2009). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In: Belloch, A., Sandín, B., and Ramos, F. (2009). Manual of Psychopathology: Volume d. Madrid: McGrawhill.
- Fawcett, EJ, Power, H., & Fawcett, JM (2020). Women Are at Greater Risk of OCD Than Men: A Meta-Analytic Review of OCD Prevalence Worldwide. J Clin Psychiatry, 81(4). Consulted in: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- International OCD Foundation. (2022) Who Has OCD?. Recovered from iocdf.org
- Martínez, A., and Piqueras, JA (2010). Efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy in affective and anxiety disorders using functional neuroimaging. Revneurol, 50(3), 167-178.