What Causes OCD?

OCD is an abbreviation of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and affects people of every age and walk of life. OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts or obsessions, and compulsive actions related to those thoughts. Many times, the individual suffering from OCD is aware that their obsessive thoughts are irrational, but the feelings caused by these thoughts are too extreme to be ignored. 

There is a difference between having an obsessive personality trait and having OCD, and there is certainly a difference between OCD and being “obsessed” with a hobby, pastime, or person. The term “obsessed” is used very often by everyday people to describe strong positive feelings towards something, which is the exact opposite of an actual obsessive thought, which generally will trigger strong negative feelings in someone suffering from OCD. The main aspect of OCD that separates it from obsessive personality traits is that the cycle of obsession and compulsion becomes so extreme that it degrades the victim’s quality of life.

Those with diagnosed OCD will develop triggered habits that become nearly impossible to stop without professional help. For example, someone with OCD related to cleanliness triggers may not be able to leave the house without washing their hands dozens of times, or will struggle making appointments or social engagements because of their fear for germs outside the home. This goes beyond being a “neat freak;” these compulsions stop everyday life in its tracks and can reduce one’s life to a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. 

There are several factors that can lead to the development of OCD. While the causes aren’t fully understood, there are many theories. One is that compulsions are simply behaviors that an individual learns to associate with reduced stress or anxiety. This would imply that OCD is caused by one’s environment rather than any physical disorder in the brain. OCD can be caused in some cases by emotional traumas, such as physical or sexual violence that causes extreme feelings of anxiety or disgust towards the environment, leading to obsessions and eventually compulsions. 

On the contrary, many researchers believe that OCD is simply genetic or hereditary, meaning that there isn’t much one can do to prevent themselves from getting OCD. Children whose parents are diagnosed with OCD sometimes, but not always develop the disorder. Some researchers also believe OCD is caused by structural and functional issues in the brain.

 In either case, it is imperative for family and loved ones to watch for early signs of OCD (especially in children) and find treatment options as soon as possible. It is always okay to reach out for help if you are suffering from OCD symptoms, no matter how mild or severe they may be. 

If you or a loved one suffers from OCD or a similar condition, seek help from your Reboot therapist today.