Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Posted by Nick Niesen on October 26th, 2010

Did you just come back from checking that the back door was locked? Will you be checking again in ten minutes? Will your session at the computer be interrupted at least twice to make sure that the back door is locked? If so, then you suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder.

Obsessive compulsive disorder may generate laughter in a skit on a television show, but for millions of people it is anything but funny. An obsession can range from something as mildly irritating as checking to make sure the back door is locked twenty times a day to never being able to travel more than five miles from your home before you return just to make sure you didn?t leave the stove on. Even though you checked it before you got in the car and checked it again after you got in the car but before you turned the key.

Probably the most famous victim of obsessive compulsive disorder was billionaire Howard Hughes, whose battle with the disease took him from being a dashing movie executive who dated some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood to a recluse who washed his hands a hundred times a day and was petrified of human contact.

Although many people consider it a mental illness, in fact there is physiological condition associated with the disorder. Obsessive compulsive disorder is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Specifically, the imbalance takes place in a part of the brain known as the caudate nucleus. The caudate nucleus works in conjunction with an area of the brain called the orbital cortex. The orbital cortex is sort of the tattletale of the brain; it serves to warn us that something isn?t quite right, that we forgot to lock the door or turn off the stove. But when the imbalance occurs in the caudate nucleus it causes the orbital cortex to malfunction. In essence, it becomes a tattletale that keeps repeating the same story. It keeps telling you that the door is unlocked, or that your hands aren?t clean and need to be washed.

While some drugs have proven to be effective in some cases in dealing with the imbalance, as of yet there is still no proven foolproof pharmacological cure for obsessive compulsive disorder. The magic cure doesn?t exist yet, but it?s not all bad news. Increasing numbers of sufferers are finding various levels of relief by combining one of several brand name antidepressants with behavioral control methods. One theory goes that the medication lessens one?s anxiety level enough to allow for greater mental control over the fear involved in the compulsive. After all, what is really going on is the fear that you left the door unlocked or the stove still burning. Because the brain is constantly ringing that alarm, it?s difficult to control the urge to check it out. But the medication can work to lessen that anxiety and allow you to exert more control over whether you check that door for the third time in ten minutes.

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Nick Niesen

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Nick Niesen
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