Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Signs & Effects

When an individual battles with intrusive thoughts and challenging compulsions to carry out ritualistic behaviors to decrease anxiety, he or she is most likely struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The symptoms associated with this mental health condition are upsetting to those who are afflicted with them, as they can cause severe impairment in daily functioning. The obsessions tied to this disorder can be overpowering and cause an individual to constantly ruminate on his or her desires to act on their ritualistic behaviors, until he or she gives in to his or her compulsions in an attempt to lessen anxiety. This cyclical pattern can make even the easiest of tasks impossible to complete. In addition, the compulsive side of OCD can cause an individual to display behavioral patterns that seem to only make sense to him or herself.

There are countless individuals who grapple with OCD who also face symptoms connected to eating disorders. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that the rates of OCD are higher in those who are battling an eating disorder such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. The simultaneous issues that develop because of each of these conditions can cause an individual to experience a variety of upsetting effects. Thankfully, there is effective treatment available that can help reduce these symptoms, and help individuals defeat their eating disorders at the same time, ultimately helping them function more appropriately. With the right care, those afflicted with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can learn how to heal and break out of damaging patterns of thoughts, fight their compulsions, and cope with their anxious feelings. By doing so, those with obsessive-compulsive disorder and co-occurring eating disorders can reclaim their lives.

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Statistics

OCD is a mental health condition that impacts men and women equally, and is approximated to present in 1% of those living in the United States. Researchers have found that 25% of those who meet the criteria for OCD experience symptoms by age 14, although the most common age for the onset of symptoms is 19.

Causes and Risk Factors for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The causes and risk factors for OCD are said to be found in one’s genetic makeup. Additionally, experts believe that specific environmental aspects can impact the onset of OCD symptoms. Consider the following:

Genetic: Similar to other mental illnesses, OCD is said to be a condition you can inherit from a relative. Those who have at least one biological parent who battles OCD have a greater risk for developing the same disorder. In addition, if an individual’s family history includes anxiety disorders, the chances of developing OCD increases.

Environmental: Mental health professionals report that one’s environment can bring about anxious feelings that lend themselves to the development of OCD. Some environmental aspects can include trauma, violence, neglect, and abuse. Lastly, developmental specialists have concluded that symptoms of OCD can develop if a child is being raised by individuals who are absent and/or uninvolved during his or her formative years.

Risk Factors:

  • Experiencing the unexpected loss of a loved one
  • Partaking in unhealthy relationships
  • Exposure to chronic stress or trauma
  • Experiencing abrupt life changes
  • Having a poor support system
  • Having caregivers that were not involved during childhood
  • Family history of obsessive-compulsive disorder or other mental health conditions
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Being the victim of crime, abuse, or neglect

Signs and Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The trademark features of OCD are the presence of two specific symptoms that develop: compulsions and obsessions. Depending on the individual, some people experience more compulsions than obsessions, and vice-versa. If the following signs or symptoms appear, it is possible that one might be struggling with OCD:

Obsessive symptoms: Obsessive symptoms of OCD can include unwanted and intrusive thoughts that can dictate how an individual chooses to live his or her life. These symptoms can include:

  • Aggressive impulses
  • Overwhelming feelings of responsibility for others
  • Disturbing thoughts that are graphic in nature
  • Irrational, excessive, and specific worries about symmetry, order, and/or arrangement of objects
  • Intense fears pertaining to dirt, germs, and/or the risk of contamination

Compulsive symptoms: The compulsive symptoms of OCD can include ritualistic behaviors, such as:

  • Repetitive speech
  • Hoarding
  • Ritualized eating habits
  • Frequently checking to make sure something has been done or remains in a state that eases perceived anxiety, even though anxious feelings remain
  • Spending a great deal of time rearranging items
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Repeatedly washing one’s hands or bathing
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD can wreak immense havoc on an individual’s life if professional care is not obtained, as symptoms of OCD grow worse the longer that they go untreated. Therefore, it is critical that individuals who are afflicted with this condition obtain treatment to avoid the upsetting consequences that could develop otherwise. Below are some negative effects that can develop if an individual does not get treatment for his or her OCD symptoms:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Attempts at suicide
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Decline in academic or occupational functioning
  • Development of a substance abuse problem
  • Self-harm
  • Academic failure
  • Inability to maintain employment
  • Development of another mental health condition

Co-Occurring Disorders

OCD tends to occur simultaneously with other mental health illnesses. Those who suffer from eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia have a strong likelihood of developing co-occurring obsessive-compulsive disorder. In addition to eating disorders, some of the other mental health illnesses that one can battle with alongside of OCD can include:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Depressive disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
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