Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a lifelong disorder, which can cause a person to do things repeatedly. This disorder is identified by two general symptoms: obsessions and compulsions. An obsession can be defines as an unwelcome, distressing thought or mental image. (Schwartz, 1996) It is a thought that annoys you so much that it causes distress and anxiety. Compulsions are the behaviors that people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder perform in an attempt to get rid of the fears and anxieties caused by their obsessions. (Schwartz, 1996) The disorder which usually starts in adolescence or early childhood, is more common that asthma or diabetes.

(Baer, 1991) It affects one in forty people, or more than five million Americans. (Baer, 1991) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is related to a biochemical imbalance in the brain that can be treated effectively without drugs. This starts with a biochemical problem in the brain called "Brain Lock." (Schwartz, 1996) Four key structures of the brain become locked together and the brain sends false messages that the person cannot recognize as false. (Schwartz, 1996) One of the main signal-processing centers of the brain, made up of two structures called the caudate nucleus and the put amen, can be thought of like a gearshift in a car. (Schwartz, 1996) The caudate nucleus is like the automatic transmission for the thinking part of the brain (the front of the brain). (Schwartz, 1996) The put amen is like the automatic transmission for the part of the brain that controls body movements.

(Schwartz, 1996) The caudate nucleus works with the put amen for coordination of thought and movement during everyday activities. (Schwartz, 1996) However, in a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the caudate nucleus is not shifting gears correctly and messages from the front part of the brain get stuck there. (Schwartz, 1996) The brain gets "stuck in gear" and can't shift to the next thought. (Schwartz, 1996) When the brain gets stuck it might tell you to do something such as washing your hands again or checking the locks again, even though there is no reason to do so. (Schwartz, 1996) Research has proven that behavioral disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may have genetic roots. For example, people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may notice symptoms of it in family members.

A person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has a 25 % chance of having a blood relative who has it. (Rapoport, 1989) There is a 70 % chance identical twins share it and a 50 % chance for fraternal twins. (Rapoport, 1989) Researchers think that multiple genes are involved. Women with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may have worse symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum because of a hormone that is triggered during pregnancy. (Rapoport, 1989) Although stress doesn't cause Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a stressful event like the death of a loved one, birth of a child or divorce can trigger the start of the disorder. (Baer, 1991) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is sometimes accompanied by other anxiety disorders, such as depression, eating disorders, substance abuse disorder, a personality disorder, attention deficit disorder, etc.

Symptoms of OCD are also seen in some other neurological disorders. There is an increased rate of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in people with Tourette's syndrome. (Baer, 1991) Trichotillomania, the illness that causes people to pull out the hair on their head, eyelashes or eyebrows may also be related to OCD. (Baer, 1991) To identify biological factors that may cause Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health has used a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner to study the brains of OCD patients. (Schwartz, 1996) They have found that the brain activity patterns of OCD patients are different from those of people without mental illness or with some other mental illness. Brain-imaging studies have also been done, showing abnormal neuro chemical activity in parts of the brain known to play a part in neurological disorders such as OCD.

(Schwartz, 1996) Defects of the frontal lobes, basal ganglia and cingulum are common in people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The basal ganglia are involved in everyday routines, like grooming, and the frontal lobes in organizing behaviors and planning. (Schwartz, 1996) The cingulum has fibrous bands that help in communicating the brain's behavioral and emotional messages. (Schwartz, 1996) Low levels of serotonin are the best link between the brain and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Serotonin is a chemical neuro-transmitter that sends information from one nerve to another throughout the brain. (Baer, 1991) It is released by one synapse (nerve ending), crosses a gap, and is picked up by another synapse. (Baer, 1991) After a message is sent, enzymes in the brain clean serotonin out of the nerve endings. (Baer, 1991) Drugs used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, known as selective serotonin re uptake inhibitors (SSRI's), increase serotonin levels and reduce or eliminate symptoms. (Schwartz, 1996) The three SSRI's that have been approved by the FDA for treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are (Prozac), (Paxil), and (Lu vox). (Schwartz, 1996) To get the full treatment effect you should take your medicine for a few months.

The general principle is that you should take one of these medications for three months to determine if it is effective for treating your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.