People with obsessive-compulsive disorder are constantly plagued with anxious and unwelcome thoughts, or have an uncontrollable need to follow rituals.
Common obsessive or compulsive behaviour of OCD sufferers include obsession with germs or dirt and the need to wash hands over and over again; preoccupation with order or symmetry; constant feelings of doubt and needing to check things repeatedly; spending long periods of time touching or counting things; persistent thoughts of repulsive sexual acts; constant thoughts of violence and fear of unintentionally harming friends and loved ones.
- Persistent thoughts that seem to have no basis and cause anxiety or distress. For example an overwhelming fear of germs and dirt or worrying about a past event.
- Always consciously trying to suppress such thoughts.
- In adults, knowing that such thoughts come from one's own imagination, not from outside factors.
- Ritualistic or compulsive behaviours such as washing hands over and over again; checking and rechecking locks several times over, repeatedly tidying up things that have already been tidied; repeating words over and over again.
- Recognising that the repetitive behaviour is excessive or unreasonable.
- Becoming depressed or distressed when attempts to control the compulsions fail.
- Feeling agitated and depressed, refusing to talk.
- Becoming withdrawn and delusional.
- Mood swings between feelings of anxiety to despair.
The mainstay of treatment is to reduce symptoms such as anxiety. It can also help to resolve inner conflicts, and help the patient to deal with anxiety. Drugs such as, antidepressants combined with behaviour therapy seem to bring about the best results.
To date, it seems that the tricyclic antidepressant is the most effective anti-obsessional drug.
Studies have shown that those classes of drugs, which increases serotonin levels in the brain, shows a 30 percent to 60 percent reduction in symptoms in adults. Other antidepressants that have demonstrated good results are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine, paroxetine and sertraline.
Behaviour therapy will help the patient cope with trying to change a specific behaviour -- by stopping what has been triggering it or by replacing it with a more desirable response.
Some studies have shown that 60 to 70 % of OCD patients improve with behaviour therapy.