Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot, especially when we’re doing something like tidying the home or lining up face cream bottles or organizing our shoes, or generally just applying excessive diligence to any number of tasks. But OCD is a very real disease. In fact, a study was carried out on patients suffering from OCD, illustrating that there is a specific defect in their actual goal-oriented behavior. It is this defect that leads patients with OCD to depend on certain habits and perform repetitive actions, instead of sensible and goal-oriented behaviors.
So what is OCD exactly? OCD leads to repetitions of one or more types of behaviors like hand washing, checking that you’ve turned things off and counting, but it’s certainly not limited to those. In most cases, the patients are unable to stop themselves from performing the tasks repeatedly, and they suffer from severe anxiety when they stop.
In the recent study, test subjects, almost half clinically diagnosed with OCD, showed signs of evidence to neural misfires or essentially behavioral impairments. The study analyzed lack of flexibility with reward-oriented tasks, and found that even when offered a normal goal-oriented outcome (and thus a pleasing reward), the patients pursued their OCD behaviors no matter what. Meaning even though OCD sufferers were absolutely aware of the more healthy and award-oriented option, it didn’t matter. Their OCD behavior had the better of them even in light of a “better” choice.
OCD affects about 1 to 3 percent of the world’s population, but like many other diseases that have some shame attached, many patients are undiagnosed because they are ashamed to go to the doctor. Anxiety and apprehension, depression, panic disorder, and absolute dread may overwhelm the patient. So where can they find relief? OCD is treatable. Fortunately, to those patients who have the opportunity to seek a therapist’s intervention, a diagnosis is available that might have numerous positive treatment options. From behavioral modification to pharmacological intervention, and the type and symptoms of the OCD, even surgery offers an option. Many diagnosed patients pursue active and balanced lives thanks to continuous research and insights into its neuropathology.