Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic anxiety disorder that belongs to a whole group of psychiatric diseases. It combines obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior. The disease usually occurs in adolescence or early adulthood.


The exact cause of the disease is unknown. There may be a genetic predisposition for the onset of the disease and we can not also exclude effects of various different negative factors in the early childhood including obstetric complications, head injuries, etc. The psychiatric theories assume that obsessive-compulsive disorder in linked to imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that help to transmit signals between neurons.


The obsessive-compulsive disorder manifests with intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety and uncertainty of the affected patient. The victim usually sees the thoughts as irrational, but despite that, he or she is unable to overcome them. The typical thought is that there is an acute danger threatening the patient or his beloved and close people, unless... The thoughts force the patient to perform certain ritual activities that bring relief. However, the relief is only temporary and the intrusive thoughts tend to return. This often leads to repetition of meaningless activities, usually very absurd. A typical example might be a morbid fear of bacteria (obsession) followed by repeated washing hands (compulsions). Often, the activities are bizarre including urge to shout vulgarities, certain ritual movements, etc. It is good to remember that some mild obsessions and compulsions are actually present in the majority of population, but unlike the obsessive-compulsive disorder, they do not pose a significant distress and do not interfere with one’s social life.


The diagnosis is determined by a psychiatrist and it is based on detection of the disease symptoms. Therefore, comprehensive dialogue with the patient is the most important diagnostic means, because there is no way how to confirm the disease with objective examination methods (blood tests, imaging methods, etc.).


The basic therapeutic method is psychotherapy, where the patient learns to know the nature of his problem, to gradually overcome the obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. They are also used some medications, usually from the group of antidepressants.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources