Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: The Nature, Etiology, And Treatment

Mental health should be taken more seriously in today’s society. The physical aspect of person life is important however it is not the only thing that should be valued. A particular disorder such Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) where intrusive thoughts dominate a person’s mind can be a real problem. OCD is mental disorder where people have unwanted and constant thoughts, ideas, obsessions, and behaviors that makes them perform certain acts countless of times. In the hopes to subside these obsessive thoughts compulsions or rituals are used, which are common responses to the anxiety and unwanted thoughts. A study done by K. Bey and L. Lennertz in which they try to find the cause of OCD in a person’s life examine certain factors. They did a study comprised of 169 patients with OCD, 57 unaffected first-degree relatives to patients with OCD, and 157 healthy control group of subjects. Concluding that harm avoidance and childhood adversity plays an important role in the development of OCD. Some treatment option can be prescribed medicine or in some serious cases psychiatric neurosurgery. The alternative is exposure response therapy where the client faces the anxious obsessive thoughts head on and overtime lessen the power of those thoughts.

Obsessive Habits

The overall health of an individual can sometimes be misconstrued by many by thinking it is how a person is doing physical. More often than not, the mental aspect of a person’s life would be undermine and not taken as seriously. Mental health should be as concerning of a topic as physical health. One type of mental impairment that may be overlooked or not as well known is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

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DSM-V Diagnostic Criteria

According to the American Psychological Associations (2013), the diagnostic criteria for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by two factors: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are distressing and continuous ideas, thoughts, images, or impulses that an individual is unable to control (APA, 2013). Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that an individual carries out to prevent the anxiety or distress that is related to an obsession or a dreaded event or situation. However, these repetitive behaviors and mental acts do not actually prevent anxiety or distress, even when the individual makes active attempts to resist their obsessive thoughts and behaviors (APA, 2013). The continual nature of obsessions and compulsions mean they occupy an individual’s actions and thoughts more than 1 hour per day, which results in the individual’s inability to perform a normal routine, including social, occupational areas of functioning (APA, 2013).

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not caused by outside forces or influences such as drugs, medications, or a general medical condition, rather the symptoms of the disorder originate from the individual (APA, 2013). Obsessive-compulsive disorder should not be characterized by the symptoms of other related mental disorders that also involve obsessions and repetitive behaviors or thoughts. Most of these related disorders deal with body-focused repetitive behaviors such as body dysmorphic disorder, where an individual finds faults in their appearance, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, and eating disorders, where an individual has unusual eating habits. The disorder can be specified in three different ways among individuals. The first is with good or fair insight when the individual realizes that their obsessive-compulsive beliefs are untrue, or they are uncertain if they are true. The second is with poor insight where the individual realizes that their beliefs are probably true. The third is with absent insight or delusional beliefs where the individual thinks that their obsessive-compulsive disorder beliefs are true (APA, 2013). A tic-related behavior or disorder can also be specified when describing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Research on the Etiology of the Disorder

Being diagnosis with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be attributed to certain areas of a person’s life, as early as childhood. One particular study tries to understand the root cause of why OCD is present in one’s life. This particular study titled “Harm Avoidance and Childhood Adversities in Patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and their Unaffected First-Degree Relatives” by K. Bey and L. Lennertz in which they assume that there must be a connection between genetic factors and environmental factors. More specifically they looked at the personality trait of harm avoidance and the adversities in childhood. Harm avoidance is described as a personality trait in which an individual has excessive worrying, shyness, fatigability, and fear of uncertainty (Bey et al, 2017). The purpose of the overall study was observed how harm avoidance and childhood adversities contribute to the development of OCD.

The type of study this research was conducted was experimental. The study consisted of 169 participants with OCD, 157 healthy comparison subjects, and 57 unaltered first-degree relatives of patients with OCD. 37 parents and 18 siblings participated in the experimental. The patients and control group were matched for age and gender (Bey et al, 2017). The harm avoidance was assessed by the Temperament and Character Inventory, in which 35 binary items on the test would come up with an overall score of severity of harm avoidance. The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire was used to evaluate the level of childhood trauma. The types of trauma may consist of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The results of the study supported the theory that harm avoidance and childhood adversities play an important role in the development of OCD. Patients with OCD and their unaffected relatives in the experiments had high levels of harm avoidance when compared to the healthy controlled participants. In terms of childhood adversities, the OCD patients reported more trauma in childhood than unaffected relatives and the healthy control subjects (Bey et al, 2017).


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be assessed and treated in different ways. Typically, those who have OCD find it hard thing to overcome, it is a process at chipping away and working on areas that are trigger points. According to Abnormal psychology: Clinical perspectives on psychological disorders by Susan Krauss Whitbourne and Richard Halgin, OCD can be treated through medication like clomipramine or other serotonin inhibiting medication. Inhibiting medication such as Zoloft or Prozac (Whitbourne et al, 2013). In extremely serious cases of OCD psychiatric neurosurgery may be an option to provide deep brain stimulation in the areas of the brain that control motor control, which may relieve symptoms by reducing activity of prefrontal cortex, which would hopefully reduce the obsessive thoughts. The substitute to medication or invasive surgery would be psychological interventions. For instances if a client is having rapid obsessive thoughts, the clinician may expose the client in those very situations that provoke compulsive rituals (Whitbourne et al, 2013). When confronted by intrusive thoughts the clinician directs the client to stop performing compulsive behaviors so that over time the obsessive thoughts lose their meaning.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a condition that many people unfortunately experience across the world, it is a tough diagnosis to overcome. Every day you are under constant self-doubt and fear to do sometimes the simplest of tasks. I myself have felt anxious many times in my life and when learning about this disorder, I found some parallels and similarities in how I think. At times I have intrusive thoughts that gets me anxious and paranoid of what may or may not happen. By learning about disorder, I gained a better understanding and felt a level of compassion when I thought about how people can live with such doubt in their minds. I can only imagine people feeling like they are a prisoner in their own mind. I believe there should be more awareness for OCD in the public eye, people should be informed. Making sure your mental health is just as stable as your physical health can benefit the overall quality of life.

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