OCD Statistics and Treatment Options
Many people use the term “OCD” to refer to anyone who’s excessively meticulous or finicky. The disorder is actually a form of severe anxiety. If you are suffering from this disorder, your mind is constantly filled with obsessions and worries. Those obsessions drive you to create increasingly complicated routines. The routines become compulsions. When you don’t follow those routines, your anxiety may worsen until you become paralyzed. Satisfying the compulsions may grant temporary relief, but the sufferer soon has a renewed urge to act out his compulsions on the basis of his obsessions.
Of course, not everyone who feels uncomfortable when a routine is disrupted has the illness. The disease is unique in that the obsessions have relatively little basis in reality, and sufferers are unable to shift their focus away from their obsessions, even when it’s necessary.
How many people have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), OCD statistics show that 2.2 million adults suffer from the disease. That’s one percent of the US population. There are no differences in the OCD statistics for the prevalence of the disease between men and women. People who have been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome are more likely to develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 25 years ago, the disease was one of the top ten global causes of disability according to the World Health Organization. While there may be a genetic component to the illness, scientists have not yet isolated the gene that determines its development.
Nobody knows what actually causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. On one level, it could be the result of impaired neurotransmitter levels that impede communication between the brain’s frontal lobe and other parts of the brain. In some cases, it could be genetically transmitted. Obsessions can also be learned behavior. A parent with compulsions is more likely to impute the underlying fears to their children. Risk factors for developing the disorder or worsening its symptoms are other mental illnesses, dealing with high levels of stress, or experiencing a traumatic event.
How is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder diagnosed?
Only psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists can make a valid diagnosis about whether you have the disorder. Generally, your therapist will check for three key symptoms of OCD:
- The presence of one or more obsessions
- Compulsive behavior resulting from those obsessions
- The prioritization of the obsessions and compulsions over people and activities that you care about
Obsessions tend to revolve around a persistent theme or concern. Common fears include:
- Dirt or disease
- The uncertainty of the future
- Chaos or disorder
- Self-harm or being a danger to others
Some obsessions may not necessarily manifest themselves as fears but could be relentless inappropriate and undesired thoughts or mental imagery. Concrete examples of compulsions are frequently checking the stove, excessive hand washing and ritual repetition, routines, or counting. The determinant factor in deciding when to see a medical professional is when your symptoms of OCD begin to have a deleterious effect on the quality of your life and your ability to complete basic tasks.
When is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder diagnosed?
The disorder is usually diagnosed at one of two stages in the patient’s life. The first stage is between the ages of eight and twelve. The second stage is in the transition period between late adolescence and young adulthood.
Treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Treatment options for the illness include medication, cognitive behavior therapy, exposure and response prevention, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. If you don’t get treatment, your quality of life can deteriorate and your physical health, job, and relationships may be affected. Some sufferers have thoughts of suicide.
Many doctors prescribe antidepressants to alleviate symptoms. Prozac, Zoloft, and Luvox are the most common medications for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Patients may begin to see improvement after two months on medication.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to break the cycle of obsessions, compulsions, and temporary relief. While CBT doesn’t affect the presence of obsessions, its objective is to give patients alternative tools to manage their fears instead of resorting to their compulsions. As the compulsions are replaced with positive behaviors, the obsessions become less powerful and no longer control the patient’s life to the same extent as they once did.
Exposure and response prevention is a form of gradual therapy in which sufferers of the disorder are incrementally introduced to the objects that trigger their fears and obsessions. ERP is taught in one-on-one sessions and in group therapy until the patient is able to perform ERP on his own. Similarly to CBT, ERP triggers the obsessions so that patients can substitute their compulsions with healthier habits and coping mechanisms.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is an option for patients who have not been helped by other treatments or who fear the side effects of antidepressants. TMS is a unique brain therapy that uses magnetic forces to alter brain activity in the relevant regions of the brain. The goal of the treatment is to improve the operation of neurotransmitters and facilitate communication between the frontal lobe and the brain’s other areas. TMS is an hour-long outpatient procedure that requires no anesthesia or sedatives.
Just a month of treatment can lead to a positive difference in reducing symptoms and improving the patient’s overall ability to function in society. TMS was approved by the FDA twelve years ago for the treatment of depression, but it can also treat other disorders characterized by anxiety and atypical psychological symptoms. If you are pregnant, then you can still undergo TMS. There are no indicators that TMS is unsafe in pregnant women or the unborn child. Our specialists are willing to answer any questions that you may have about the TMS procedure and its efficacy. TMS is often administered in tandem with CBT and ERP or other anxiety-reducing therapies such as meditation and sleep hygiene.
Despite the work of several NGOs and foundations promoting research and searching for a cure, there is no definitive cure for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You have the right to consider every therapy that can alleviate your symptoms. We can help you conquer your fears and treat your symptoms. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.