Thursday, March 26, 2009

OCD: Psychologial Therapies

Combined with medications, psychological therapies are considered to be an effective approach to reducing the OCD symptoms, their frequency and intensity. These therapies are directed on changing the thoughts and behaviors of OCD patients in order to help them in decreasing their dependence on the obsessions and compulsions.

Psychological therapies include three approaches: Behavior Therapy (BT), Cognitive Therapy (CT) and Behavior-Cognitive Therapy (BCT), which help people with OCD in learning how to control their symptoms of the disorder. BT is supposed to be the most effective therapy, as well as BCT. The technique of BT is called “Exposure and Response Prevention”: the therapist makes the patient face the situation or object of obsession, but at that it is prohibited for the patient to perform his/her usual rituals. For example, the patient is forced to touch something dirty, but he/she is not allowed to wash his/her hands after this for some hours.

Another technique is called Saturation. It is based on the assumption that if an OCD patient will get concentrated on the obsessional thought for some time (15-20 minutes), the compulsions may lose their meaning and the disorder will become less severe. These and various other behavior therapeutic techniques help patients to cope with their anxiety without compulsions, and the effects of such therapies frequently remain for rather long period of time.

BCT approach can also be helpful for OCD treatment. This type of therapy is directed on changing the thoughts and escaping negative thinking patterns of patients with OCD, including the attempts to change attitude of the OCD patients towards their obsession. Thus, one of the most popular techniques, Thought-stopping, helps OCD patients to learn blocking the deveopment of obsessional thoughts and prevent compulsions by doing something different or opposite.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

OCD: The Causes and Treatment Options

There are few scientifically proven facts about the causes of OCD. Medical researches suggested that this disorder could be caused by some biological factors, not by previous behavioral experiences or social problems of a person. Studies showed that this disorder could be related to some irregularities of nerve cells connections in certain structures of human brain, associated with a lack of serotonin.

Nevertheless, modern specialists cast doubt upon this theory, supposing that a lack of serotonin was not the cause but the reaction of human organism on OCD. Medical experiments of National Institutes of Health resulted with discovering of certain genetic mutation, affecting serotonin transporter. This mutation can probably be one of the causes of OCD, as well as certain failures on chemical level in those areas of human brain, where communication “intentions-actions” takes place (so called “Brain Lock”). Also, specialists suppose that the development of OCD is connected with the processes in the cingulated cortex and the striatum of human brain.

OCD can be treated in two different ways: medication treatment and psychological therapy. Both these types can be effective, but on the first stages it is better to consult a psychiatrist and choose a proper method of psychological therapy, which is less radical and harmful. Medicines like sertraline, fluvoxamine, paroxetine or fluoxetine, which stimulate activity of serotonin 5-HT in brain, are quite effective for decreasing occurrence and severity of OCD syndromes.

The mentioned medicines can be used along with some tricyclic antidepressants or hallucinogens. Besides, some positive effect can be received when using definite vitamins, mineral supplements and natural sugar Inositol. Unfortunately, as soon as the treatment is over, symptoms tend to appear again. That’s why it is better to continue such treatment with lower doses of medications.

Friday, February 27, 2009

OCD: Obsessions and Compulsions

Therefore, OCD is connected with two concepts, which characterize typical behavioral patterns of the patients. Overwhelming majority of people with OCD demonstrate both obsessions and compulsions.Obsessions include all the obsessive thoughts, ideas or fears, which periodically bother people with OCD and trigger the necessity of performing their ritual actions over and over again.

As a rule, obsessions are annoying, fearful, distressing and even harmful, but patients with PCD can not overcome them. Obsessions can have different motifs, starting from fear of being hurt or hurting others, fear of infections or contamination, and ending with obsessive need of making everything clean and putting everything in order. Sometimes obsessions have religious, medical, sexual or even sadistic background.

Compulsions are repetitive rituals as a reaction on obsessions, which help people with OCD in reducing the anxiety and decreasing the stress. The most common compulsions are washing hands, brushing teeth, rearranging things and items, or putting them in order, cleaning around and so on. Compulsions can take also more cognitive form, like repeating some phrases or checking out something (front door), counting to some number, asking the same question over and over again, looking for constant verbal approval of something, etc.

Some patients with OCD have simple compulsions, and some have quite complicated or changing patterns. Compulsions bring temporary relief from the obsessive thoughts or fears, but do not eliminate the reason of obsessions and can not stop the cycle. For example, if a person is afraid of germs and washes hands again and again, every washing does not make him/her believe that hands are already clean enough and there’s no danger of receiving germs anymore, so the acts of repeated washing continue.

Sudden attacks of obsessive thoughts and anxiety are frequently accompanied with some physical symptoms, like slight increase of blood pressure or body temperature, sweating, feeling cold, etc. Also, patients always feel tension and nervousness until they do not start performing their rituals and receive temporary relaxation. Besides, people with OCD may have desire to resist their obsessions and this way to avoid their repeated compulsions, considering those to be senseless.

Many OCD patients attempt to control own obsessions, especially when they are on public. Besides, patients with OCD often suffer from other anxiety or mental disorders, like different forms of phobias, panic attacks, attention deficit, or others. In many cases it is connected with recognition of own dependence on the cycles of obsessions-compulsions and inability to resist this disorder. In such situations, it is harder to diagnose OCD correctly.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Anxiety and worry can be a regular response of a person on different hard situations and stresses in daily life. Symptoms of normal or moderate anxiety are well-known: pounding heart, stomach ache, dry mouth, shaking hands, and so on.

Actually, anxiety should not be considered a medical problem, unless it takes intense and hard forms. Many people frequently feel excessive anxiety and inability to cope with it. In such cases it is supposed that they suffer from so called anxiety disorders, which are rather common and dangerous health concerns which can affect a person's physical and mental activities, behavior and life in general.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) belongs to the group of anxiety disorders. This is a psychological disorder, which is commonly characterized with recurrent obsessive thoughts followed by a desire to perform certain rituals or repeated behaviors, such as washing hands, counting, etc.

Performing these rituals is aimed on escaping from obsessive thoughts or receiving some relief, and non-performing those causes considerable raise of anxiety and worry. At that, people with OCD do not take pleasure from their rituals. Moreover, the majority of OCD people understand that their obsession-ritual actions have no sense, but they are unable to stop them and frequently try to hide them from family members or friends.

OCD is a serious mental disorder, which affects, first of all, the patient and his/her life, work and normal activities. It makes a person feel dependent on own mental condition, seriously lowers self-esteem and damages self-perception, causes stresses, hopelessness, lack of self-confidence, and increases sense of own insufficiency.

Besides, this disorder affects not only individuals, but their families, relatives and friends as well. It is not easy to co-exist with OCD patients, therefore the mission of family members and close people of such people is to demonstrate tolerance, understanding, flexibility and optimism. They have to provide people with OCD with normal conditions of everyday routine, help and support them, encourage every progress and challenge them to enjoy this life to the full extend.