Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – In Brief

What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD in short, is a mental illness that causes people to have unwanted thoughts and to repeat a certain pattern of behavior over and over again.
Sometimes it is compared to a mental hiccup, where the ill person have an involuntary urge to do a certain action.

In OCD’s terms, the unwanted thoughts, images, feelings that occur over and over are known as “Obsessions” whereas the act of doing a certain action in order to dismiss a certain obsession is coined as “Compulsions”.

OCD is not a mental disease caused by the individual him/herself (for example due to weak personality or will power), instead it is a physical/medical brain disorder that causes problems in processing the information.

Though the person with OCD knows that his obsessions or compulsions make no sense, s/he, most of the times cannot control his/her urges to stop the thoughts.

Symptoms of OCD

Almost everyone have a certain habit, for example checking the door lock before exiting the car, or brushing our teeth before going to bed, however people with OCD do these actions more often than others in an uncontrolled manner.

We will discuss about the obsessions and their counter action or compulsions:

Obsession Compulsion
  • Contamination fears (germs, dirt, viruses, …)
  • Disgust with bodily waste or fluids
  • Washing
  • People with OCD might keep on washing their hands until their hands wear off, become raw and inflamed.
  • Fear of harming a family member or friend
  • Need for constant reassurance
  • A need to tell, ask, confess
  • Keeps on asking, doubting
  • Praying
  • Repeating
  • Concern with order, symmetry, and exactness
  • Fear of loosing things
  • Fear of bad actions happening, such as imagining that the house is on fire, or there is an accident around the block
  • Counting over and over
  • Arranging and ordering to make it perfect and in order
  • Repetitive concerns and checking whether a certain accident occurred or not
  • Checking garbage bin before throwing it
  • Sexual thoughts and urges
  • Touching others

There are much more Obsessions/Compulsions that model a person with OCD.

The OCD symptoms can occur to anyone with any age, however the presence of a certain trait doesn’t imply that a person have OCD. It is natural to have certain worries and thoughts at a certain time (for example when one is sick, he might fear infections), however if these thoughts remained even after the initial cause has vanished, then that person might want to start to consider visiting a specialist.

Because the person with OCD, is aware of these symptoms but cannot very much control them, that person usually hide these symptoms because of the fear of rejection from the society , therefore the odds to discover this illness becomes rare, and the person goes untreated for more than like 5 years!

What causes OCD?

OCD cannot be inherited, therefore it can happen with anyone during his lifetime.
There is no single cause for this illness. Off the causes that science think are responsible for the occurrence of OCD:

  • A chemical messenger in the brain, called Serotonin (also referred to as 5-hydroxytryptamine), helps to keep people from repeating the same behaviour, reducing stress and overwhelming thoughts and depression.

Frequent doses of Serotonin can help alleviate the situation.

For the natural medicine folks, it is also known that Bananas can assist the brain to generate more serotonin.
“A banana a day keeps the psychologist away!”

  • If parents have OCD, then there is a high probability that their children might get affected by the parents behavior and develop a certain level of OCD.
  • Research suggests that OCD involves problems in communication between the front part of the brain (the orbital cortex) and deeper structures (the basal ganglia).

OCD and daily life

It is quite natural to have difficulty in daily life due to OCD, because, as it has been discussed so far, obsessions and compulsions that co-exist, are not an easy thing to cope with especially for a sick person.

Can you imagine a person who is constantly worrying about checking light switches, water faucets, the stove, door locks, or emergency brake?

What about a person who is collecting useless objects or inspecting the garbage before it is thrown out, just because of the fear of loosing valuable possessions!?

Or even constantly thinking of bad events such as fire, burglary, or flooding the house?

Yes, everyone thinks of that, but not everyone thinks of that in an almost constant manner, a manner that bloats his mind and prevents him from concentrating on daily activities!

OCD symptoms cause lots of distress, take up a deal of time (more than an hour a day), or significantly interfere with the person’s work, social life, or relationships.

How can people with OCD work, if they are perpetually worried and unsure if a task has been done poorly, even when they know they done it well?

How can they work if they need to reassurance every time they say something so that they make sure that what they said or did was correct!?

What about people who fear to get out of their homes because of concerns with contamination (dirt, germs, chemicals, radiation) or acquiring a serious illness such as AIDS?

And the list goes on….and the OCD people keep on suffering….

Just thinking of this, I am sure your mind will be jammed and so your productivity will be brought down to zero.

Treating OCD

By now, you might be wondering about how to treat OCD.

As we all agree that knowledge is power, so first before indulging ourselves on how to treat the ill person, it is advised first to educate that person about this disease.

It is also necessary to educate the family members or the ones that would take care of him.

As previously said, OCD is a mostly medical disease, therefore several medicines are available to treat it, these medicines include:

  • Medication with a serotonin reuptake inhibitor is helpful for many patients. (SRI)
  • Clomipramine (brand name: Anafranil)
  • Fluoxetine (brand name: Prozac)
  • Sertraline (brand name: Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (brand name: Paxil) and fluvoxamine (brand name: Luvox).

These drugs can cause side effects such as dry mouth, nausea and drowsiness. Sometimes they also affect a person’s sexual performance. It may be several weeks before a person with OCD notices the benefits of his or her medicine.

Now that the cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy has emerged, OCD can be treated by a trained therapist.
Mostly through behavioral therapy, the patients learns to face the situations, bend them and transform them for their own benefit.
The patient will learn how to cope with the high level of anxiety that might arise when confronted with a given situation.

Knowing that families have no direct correlation on OCD, however a supportive and calm family can improve the responses of the patient and enhance the results of the treatment. Family members are advised to award/comment positively on the behavior of the patient and to ignore bad responses instead of blaming him.


This article on OCD was written, by Elias Bachaalany, in order to give a small and fast introduction about this disorder.

Hope you found this article useful. In case of comments, corrections or suggestions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Here is a list of sources I referred to while writing this article:

Last updated on 06/09/2004

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