Robert is a 44-year old father of three. Before sleeping he makes sure doors are locked. He locks the main door in the surest way possible. He is sure he locked it right and tight. He walks across the room and locks the back door. He makes sure it’s really locked. Then, he walks back towards the main door. Although he is sure he has locked it earlier, he checks and makes certain again. Then, he walks back to the back door again. In the middle of the night Robert wakes up, walks down the stairs and checks if he has really locked the doors.
Amanda is a 30-year old housewife. She makes sure that everything is clean and neatly arranged. Equipped with a disinfectant, she sprays on each doorknob in the house. She makes sure that the doorknobs are spotless and clean three times a day everyday. At night, she is worried whether she missed a spot. Waking up the next day, she is so afraid to touch any doorknob because it may not be clean anymore. She starts spraying disinfectant on the doorknobs again.
Robert and Amanda are people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It is a psychiatric anxiety disorder involving obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior. Although this condition might seem harmless, it has tremendous effects on the patient’s life by taking so much time, energy, and attention by causing fear, guilt or doubt. It is often debilitating to the patient’s quality of life. For example, Amanda might not have enough time for more important things because she keeps on spraying disinfectant on her doorknobs, fearing she might get a disease from the germs on them. Robert finds it hard to sleep worrying about the locks and fearing that an intruder might break into his home.
OCD is more common in adults than in children and adolescents. People who belong to the 20 to 30 age bracket are most likely to develop this condition. If left untreated, it can continue bothering the patient until he grows old. A study of 20,000 adults in the United States in 1980 reveals that 2.5 percent of them have been diagnosed with OCD at one point in their lives. Today one in 30 adults suffer from this disorder. Many of them claim that they started to experience its symptoms during childhood and adolescence.
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