Introduction in their own mind. These behaviors cause

Slide/Outline: Our group is going to talk about
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In this presentation, we will define the
disorder, talk about the causes, symptoms, prognosis, diagnosis, treatment and
its consequences.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder where individuals have
unwanted intrusive thoughts, images and urges that are considered by the
individual to have originated in their own mind. These behaviors cause
individuals to engage in activities that are responses to these thoughts, but
only providing temporary relief.

Scientists are, despite extensive research, not sure what causes OCD. However,
researchers have concluded that it is the result of a combination of
neurobiological, genetic, behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors that
trigger the disorder in a specific individual at a point in time. Research
suggests that OCD involves problems in communication between the front part of
the brain and deeper structures of the brain. More specifically, there are
errors in communication between the orbitofrontal cortex, the anterior
cingulate cortex (both in the front of the brain), the striatum, and the
thalamus (deeper parts of the brain). These errors are enhanced by
abnormalities in the neurotransmitter system. Primarily serotonin, but also
dopamine, glutamate and more, that work as messengers between brain cells, have
been proven to contribute to the disorder as well. Therefore, medicine that
affects serotonin levels have sometimes triggered, worsened, or improved the
disease. Furthermore, using neuroimaging technologies scientists have proven
that certain areas of the brain work differently in people with OCD. National
Institutes of Health examined DNA and found that OCD is associated with a rare
mutation of hTERT; a human serotonin transporter gene. The more severe the OCD
symptoms are, the more likely is it that the person has a second mutation of
the same gene as well.

Research has been conducted to determine
whether the disorder is related to genetic or environmental influences; tying
in with the nature vs. nurture debate. While the truth clearly lies somewhere
in the middle with the disorder being the result of both, it has been proven
that roughly 25% of all OCD sufferers already have the disorder in their
immediate family. Further, studies of twins show that if one identical twin has
OCD, the other has a 45-65% risk of developing the same disorder. This is not
the case for fraternal twins which indicates a strong genetic correlation. Learning
theorists claim that OCD is the result of behavioral conditioning. They claim
that compulsions are learned responses that comes from an instinct to reduce
anxiety that the obsession causes. For example, if a person is afraid of germs,
the obsession generated with that will become washing hands to reduce the
anxiety from the fear. Because the act of washing hands becomes associated with
reduced anxiety, the person will want to wash their hands more often. This
makes the compulsive behavior become not only obsessive, but also excessive.

Environmental factors can contribute to the
triggering of OCD in many ways. Traumatic brain injuries, severe bacterial or
viral infections such as strep throat or the flu have all been proved to have a
connection to the triggering of OCD. This does not mean that these diseases
directly cause the OCD itself, but it might generate symptoms that can trigger
the disease in children who are already genetically predisposed to OCD. While
lifestyle and parenting has shown no direct correlation with the triggering of
OCD (despite general belief), these factors can cause stress which in turn can
worsen OCD for someone who already has it, or trigger it in someone who is
predisposed to the disorder.

Cognitive scientists contribute with a
different perspective to what causes OCD. Research has suggested that
individuals with OCD have dysfunctional beliefs and that it is the mislabeling
of thoughts as being more important or decisive than they are that generates
the obsession and the compulsion. People with OCD will misinterpret common
intrusive thoughts as having catastrophic consequences and hence develop
obsessions. The compulsions are merely a way to try to neutralize the

Symptoms of OCD consist of Obsessive symptoms
that trigger compulsive behavior. Obsessions are repeated, persistent, and
unwanted thoughts, urges or images that are intrusive and cause distress or
anxiety. Common obsessions include fear of contamination or dirt, needing
things orderly and symmetrically, aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming
yourself or others and unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or
religious subjects.

These obsessions can be manifested through
signs of being scared to touch objects others have touched, avoiding shaking
someone else’s hands, doubts that you have locked your door or turned the stove
off or feeling intense stress when objects aren’t orderly or facing a certain

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or
mental acts that someone feels driven to perform. These behaviors are meant to
prevent or reduce the anxiety related to obsessions; however, they are not a long-term
solution to the distress, but they only offer a temporary relief from anxiety.

Common compulsions include checking, counting, orderliness, following a strict
routine and demanding reassurances. Someone who suffers from these compulsions
may count in certain patterns, check doors repeatedly to make sure they’re
locked, or the stove to make sure it’s turned off, silently repeat a word or
phrase, wash their hands until their skin becomes raw. 

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