What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by obsessions and/or compulsions.  Typically, a person with OCD experiences unwanted threatening obsessional thoughts and engages in compulsive behaviors or mental activity in order to diminish the thoughts and anxiety.   OCD is  recognized by experts as a neurobehavioral disorder, which means that symptoms are initially due to a malfunctioning brain.  The OCD brain generates a faulty “danger!” signal in response to a benign automatic thought.  In order to cope with the scary thought, a person struggling with OCD engages in a behavior or mental activity that sometimes quiets the obsession and relieves the fear.  Unfortunately, relief is short-lived, and if the person continues to rely on compulsions to cope with obsessions, both become stronger and more frequent over time.  This phenomenon is explained by the behavioral principle of negative reinforcement:  if a behavior serves to remove an aversive stimulus, the frequency of that behavior will increase.  To summarize, the OCD brain randomly misfires “danger!”, the OCD sufferer engages in a compulsions to achieve momentary relief, and the OCD symptoms worsen over time.

Next:  Types of OCD

OCD Treatment

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