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OCD Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Support Group & Information

OCD Introduction How Common is OCD What Causes OCD? Symptoms of OCD
Other Features of OCD Co-existing Illnesses with OCD Treatment for OCD Getting Help for OCD
Research for OCD Medications for OCD Side effects of OCD Medications Behavior Therapy and OCD
Psycotherapy and OCD Back to Home Page

OCD Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Chat Support Group

What Causes OCD?

Growing evidence proves biological factors are the primary contributor of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, (OCD) contrary to the old belief that OCD was a result of life experiences. The fact that OCD patients respond well to specific medications that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin suggests the disorder has a neuro-biological basis. For that reason, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is no longer attributed only to attitudes a patient learned in childhood, for example, a belief that certain thoughts are dangerous or unacceptable. Instead, the search for causes now focuses on the interaction of neurobiological factors and environmental influences, as well as cognitive processes.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is sometimes accompanied by depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. Co-existing disorders can make OCD more difficult both to diagnose and to treat. 

In an effort to identify specific biological factors that may be important in the onset or persistence of OCD, investigators have used a device called the positron emission tomography (PET) scanner to study the brains of patients with OCD. Several groups of investigators have obtained findings from PET scans suggesting that OCD patients have patterns of brain activity that differ from those of people with some other mental illness. Brain-imaging studies of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder showing abnormal neurochemical activity in regions known to play a role in certain neurological disorders suggest that these areas may be crucial in the origins of OCD. There is also evidence that treatment with medications or behavior therapy induce changes in the brain coincident with clinical improvement.

Recent preliminary studies of the brain using magnetic resonance imaging showed that the subjects with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder had significantly less white matter than did normal control subjects, suggesting a widely distributed brain abnormality in patients with OCD. Understanding the significance of this finding will be further explored by functional neuro-imaging and neuropsychological studies 

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are seen in association with some other neurological disorders. There is an increased rate of OCD in people with Tourette's syndrome, an illness characterized by involuntary movements and vocalizations. Investigators are currently studying the hypothesis that a genetic relationship exists between OCD and the tic disorders.

Other illnesses that may be linked to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are Trichotillomania (the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows or other body hair), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (excessive preoccupation with imaginary or exaggerated defects in appearance), and Hypochondriasis (the fear of having, despite medical evaluation and reassurance, a serious disease). Genetic studies of OCD and other related conditions may enable scientists to pinpoint the molecular basis of these disorders.

Other theories about the causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder focus on the interaction between behavior and the environment and on beliefs and attitudes, as well as how information is processed. These behavioral and cognitive theories are not incompatible with biological explanations.

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