What Causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

November 12, 2012

What Causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

After the success of the hit television series “Monk” (2002 – 2009) people wanted to know more about the ailment that the detective Monk suffered from – obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. Unfortunately, not even Monk could determine the exact culprit that causes OCD. No one knows why people get OCD. The prestigious Mayo Clinic writes that obsessive compulsive disorder may be caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, past traumas and complications from other illnesses.

Biological Causes

Obsessive compulsive disorder does run in families, but just why some family members get it and others never do is unclear. Studies on families with OCD patients have been done since 1936. Studies concentrated on natural families rather than families with adopted children, so some argue that how a child is raised may play more of a part in causing OCD than genetics. Perhaps seeing OCD behaviors in other family members may trigger the genes. This is just a theory and has not been proven.

Many patients with OCD suffer from brain chemistry imbalance. The neurotransmitter serotonin seems to play a huge part in many chronic illnesses, such as major depression, migraines and epilepsy. People suffering from these conditions are often prescribed medications to help the brain absorb a normal amount of serotonin, including people with OCD. There is also evidence that people with OCD have abnormal brain structures, especially in the area over the eyes. But brain abnormalities do not account for all patients with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Psychological Causes

Obsessive compulsive disorder usually starts in childhood. The child develops rituals that help calm him or her down. This suggests that the child has undergone some sort of trauma in order to feel panicked in the first place. Some patients with OCD have, sadly, been sexually molested or physically abused as children. But again, not all OCD patients have experienced childhood traumas.

Another theory is that children learned rituals because they are imitating a family member with OCD performing a ritual. Others suggest that children raised in strict religious households may become obsessed with being punished from their actions and so perform rituals in order to appease an angry spirit or God.

Complications of Other Illnesses

Many patients with obsessive compulsive disorder do not suffer from just obsessive compulsive disorder. They also suffer from at least one other chronic ailment such as post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, an eating disorder, a panic disorder or bipolar disorder. They may also suffer from a phobia that is so bad that they may become isolated in order to avoid any chance of meeting whatever frightens them.

People with OCD may have a substance abuse problem because they are using alcohol or drugs to try and self-medicate their OCD symptoms. Children with OCD often suffer from learning disabilities like attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder or memory problems. Other medical problems that OCD patients often suffer from is a tic disorder, from constantly pulling out their own hair or from believing that they are hideously ugly.

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