Causes & Symptoms
Causes of OCD
There is no one exact cause of OCD, but the below factors are theorised to contribute to the development of OCD:
- A lack of the brain chemical Serotonin.
- Genetic predisposition, shown in family history of anxiety disorders.
- Brain activation abnormalities.
- Experience of trauma, including abuse, neglect and bullying.
- Recent key or stressful life event.
- Compulsions can be learnt from parents or carers.
- High personal standards.
- Neat and meticulous personality.
- Anxious temperament.
- Perceived high level of responsibility.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms
Symptoms of OCD come in two key parts: Obsessions and Compulsions.
What is obsession in OCD?
Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, urges or worries that repeatedly appear in the mind. They are intrusive and not controlled and interfere with your thoughts. These obsessions can cause fear, discomfort, anxiety, and sometimes disgust. People sometimes feel that they cannot share their obsessions as they feel like they are wrong to experience. It is important to remember that obsessions do not reflect your personality.
Examples of Obsessions:
- Fears of initiating or failing to stop harm:
- For example, worrying you have harmed someone by not being careful enough
- Intrusive thoughts, images and impulses:
- Violent thoughts or images
- Religious or blasphemous thoughts
- Relationship intrusive thoughts that often appear as doubts about a relationship
- Sexually intrusive thoughts or images
- Fears of contamination:
- Physical contamination (e.g. by germs) or mental contamination (e.g. ‘internal uncleanliness')
- Associated with order or symmetry:
- For example you might have a fear that something bad will happen if everything isn't 'right'
People may experience more than one of the types of obsession.
What is compulsion in OCD?
Compulsions are repetitive actions or activities that you do to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessions. Often these behaviours can be time consuming and get in the way of day-to-day life and functionality.
These compulsions can be physical actions, mental rituals or involve a specific number. Sometimes people rationally know that it does not make ‘sense’ to carry out the compulsion but feel scared to not.
Examples of Compulsions:
- Arranging objects in a specific way
- Frequently washing your hands, body or surroundings
- Touching things in a particular order or at a certain time
- Ensuring repeatedly that all doors and windows are locked
- Checking your body for signs of response to thoughts or for contamination
- Correcting thoughts
- For example, counting to a certain number
- Repeating a word, name or phrase
- Drawing out a certain shape
- Replacing an intrusive thought with a different image
- For example, repetitively asking people if everything is alright