And a very happy New Year!!
What is OCD?
Its basis is that we can somehow ensure a positive outcome by performing certain rituals (e.g. if I switch my light on five times in row, then my family will be OK). OCD is driven by the fear of consequences, no matter how unlikely the risk. As the ritual becomes repeated again and again, neural pathways are developed in the brain to positively support such actions and contradict the brain's rational thought process.
How common is OCD?
|Mr Beckham - an OCD sufferer|
The jury is still out on what exactly causes OCD to develop. Brain scans of people with OCD have shown that they have different patterns of brain activity than people without OCD. This different brain circuitry causes impulses such as washing your hands after going to the bathroom to remain switched on, so the hand washing gets repeated where as with a non-OCD person, the brain switches off the impulse and allows the person to continue with their day. Also a recent study of laboratory mice found animals lacking the molecule, known as Slitrk5, exhibit behaviours similar to the human form of the condition including excessive self-grooming and increased anxiety.
Can OCD be treated?
There are different methods which can help sufferers with OCD such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) as well as medication. However, OCD symptoms persist at moderate levels even following adequate treatment and a completely symptom-free period is uncommon.
"A little bit OCD"?
Over the Summer, as part of their mental health series, Channel 4 did a fabulous programme highlighting OCD, starring comedian Jon Richardson, who wanted to find out if he was suffered with OCD (the show was called "A little bit OCD"). The programme highlighted some interesting issues such as how OCD can run in families and how living alone can exacerbate the symptoms. At the end of the show, Richardson took a series of tests to ascertain if he had OCD. It turned out that he didn't have the condition officially but certainly suffered from some of its well know symptoms (don't get him started on the order of cutlery in kitchen drawers for example).