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Obsessive-compulsive Disorder – Causes and Symptoms

Michael’s life is controlled by his obsessive-compulsive disorder – day by day. He must repeat each action again and again and must think each thought repeatedly. Therefore he, for example, is controlling day by day, if he had locked the door. However, this action is not voluntary, his compulsory control is controlling of his life. But he is not alone with his diagnose. About two to three per cent of the German population suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Men and women on the same percentage. What are the causes for this disease and how it influences daily life?

What are the symptoms of an obsessive-compulsive disorder?

It is normal and humane to feel fear or be concerned from time to time. Furthermore, it is also normal to control, if you have turned off the light, now and then. But: If thoughts and actions get compulsive and intrusive, it is not healthy anymore. Here is an orientation: Until when it is fear and when is it an anxiety disorder? Affected people can suffer from compulsive thoughts as well as from compulsive actions, or both.

Examples of compulsive behaviour

Therefore, those compulsive actions have a big impact on the daily life of the patient. The person is often late to dates, to work or even to important appointments. If someone has this mental illness, the person feels ashamed. Consequently, affected people often seek help extremely late. So, constraints, as well as restrictions in daily life, get worse. It is often the case that such a person is withdrawing from his social environment. Thus, this can develop into a depression.
It is also possible that compulsive thoughts occur. The affected person has pictures in his head, which are out of his control. For instance, they have ideas like: “What, if I push this person off the sidewalk?” Those thoughts go along with anxiety: Fear of acting, following the thought. Also fear about, that these circumstances will never end. Affected people know that their thoughts make no sense. In conclusion, it could be said that compulsive behaviour often is representative for something that does not want to be felt or should be avoided.

What are the causes for this mental disease?

The obsessive-compulsive disorder of Michael could have many causes. Therefore, science assumes a combination of social and biological factors:

  • Social components: Problems to deal with stress or emotions
  • Family components: tragic life events, like the death of loved ones or sexual abuse
  • Biological components: Unbalanced serotonin level or brain changes
  • Psychological components: Striving for perfection, sensibility, low resilience
  • Environmental components: Compulsive behaviour was learned from, for example, the parents

What is the course of this psychological disease?

In most of the cases, this mental illness is very persistent. Without treatment, the causes of compulsive actions do not go away. There is a reason why a person acts compulsively. If you ignore this fact, nothing gets better. Often there is a fluctuating course: Sometimes the symptoms are stronger, sometimes they are milder. Besides that, there could also be an episodic course, where the symptoms are completely gone for a while.

What to do about an obsessive-compulsive disorder?

An obsessive-compulsive disorder is a persistent psychological disorder, which needs an intense therapy. Although the constrains do not always disappear completely, there is a clear recovery. In this case a cognitive behavioural therapy is very helpful.
About 50 to 70 per cent of the patients show clear signs of recovery through this form of treatment. Half of the affected people do not have their disorder anymore. There is shown a decrease in the obsessive symptoms, as well as of all the concomitant symptoms. Life quality increases sustainable.
For a person, which is controlled by his compulsive thoughts and actions, daily life turns into sheer torment. It has not to be like this. There is always help for you! It is no reason to be ashamed: Neither for suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder nor that you seek for help. Quite the contrary: It is brave and admirable, that you accept reality and that you are willing to change it.


Photo source: (c) iStock.com/diane39

Published on: 15. September 2020
Compulsions - Nicole Inez Fuchs