I am certainly one to make a joke claiming I have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and need to have everything perfect. This behavior however was much more inappropriate than I realized until I decided to research OCD, a topic I THOUGHT, I understood. OCD is in fact a real disorder that people struggle with. Recent media attention has been working to fight the humorous way OCD is regarded in order help raise awareness about what is in fact a serious mental illness. My attention was brought to this topic when just this week, celebrity and my favorite actress Amanda Seyfried revealed her struggle with OCD in an effort to inform the public about this commonly brushed-aside disorder.
What is OCD?
The International OCD Foundation describes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a mental illness where a person receives unwanted thoughts and feelings over imperfections and then is compulsed to address them to relieve their mental state. An obsession can be a fear of dirt and then a person will then feel compulsed to wash themselves repeatedly. Someone who has a fear of making a mistake may feel forced to continuously check their work.
OCD: Nature or Nurture?
OCD was known before its mechanism or its “why.” It originally was believed that low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin was the reason behind the disease. WebMD reports that now, OCD has been discovered to have both a biological and environmental origin. Scientists have found that the mental disease may be due to damage of pathways between judgment and planning sections and the areas that control physical movements.
Harvard Health Publications also reported that getting strep throat could lead to OCD in young children. The antibodies of the infection enter the brain and invades the basal ganglia emotion and motor movements.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can also be triggered by a person’s environment. WebMD explains how abuse, death of a loved one, and school problems can result in OCD behaviors.
How is OCD diagnosed?
OCD can be diagnosed with several steps. A physical exam is necessary to eliminate any other reasons for OCD symptoms. Next, a psychological evaluation is completed where a therapist refers to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The Mayo Clinic however, explains that it is difficult to diagnose OCD because its symptoms are similar to other mental diseases such as anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder does not simply mean you need to have a clean room. Those struggling with the disease feel that they have no control of their own thoughts and that they must respond to these unwanted thoughts. It is something that Approximately 3.3 million people in the United States alone struggle with according to UOCD. This research serves as a reminder that Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a serious illness that should not be joked about.