by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Mental Health Writer
Business Woman PA, July 2016
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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Effects on Family, Symptoms & Treatment
An estimated 2.3% of adults are afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) according to the National Institute of Mental Health. For many, the symptoms begin in childhood or adolescence. This anxiety disorder is a neurological malfunction that creates unrelenting, intrusive thoughts and extreme anguish for those affected. Obsessions range from unbearable worries about contamination to believing they have run over someone while driving. These fears can be alleviated only one way—by acting out compulsions, which become repetitive acts of checking and rechecking to ensure the fear is unfounded.
Although OCD was added to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) in 1987, many people still live with its destruction unaware there’s help or even a name for their bizarre fears and behaviors. Add to that, “Families often don’t know that they have a sick child,” says Judith L. Rapoport, M.D., in The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing. Children may keep their obsessions and compulsions a secret in order to avoid appearing crazy.
Obsessive compulsive disorder effects on family
The devastation of OCD isn’t seen in just the adult or child with the disorder. OCD has a negative impact on the whole family. Families often destruct from the stress caused by the disorder. It’s not unusual for the OCD sufferer to rely on family members to help alleviate their fears. The sufferer may insist that a child, parent, or spouse check electrical outlets or may badger loved ones with constant questions for reassurance.
In some homes where fear of contamination is the obsession. Obsessive compulsive disorder effects on family are seen as members are banned from certain rooms or
areas of the home. This is an effort by the sick person to keep the home in order to prevent contamination of the areas. Family members may also be required to live up to unreasonable standards of cleanliness to satisfy the OCD person. In other homes, compulsions such as hoarding are so out of hand the home literally becomes a maze. Family members must maneuver through narrow trails, dodge tall stacks of boxes, newspapers, or whatever is hoarded.
What’s the cause?
To understand the OCD mind, many researchers explain the brain is stuck, in a sense. It replays a particular thought over and over again, like a broken record. In other words, it tricks the sufferer. They cannot trust their own judgment. Those who don’t understand OCD often tell the afflicted, ‘Why don’t you just stop?’
But it isn’t that simple. Researchers believe the disorder is neurobiological. Therefore, the obsessions are not a matter of choice. Differences have been found in the brain of OCD sufferers through brain imaging techniques. Some studies have found abnormalities in the neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. The occurrence of OCD is also higher in families with depressive and anxiety disorders. For most, there’s no known event that relates to their particular obsession(s). Still, researchers feel environmental stressors may play at least some role in the development of OCD for those who are biologically predisposed.
Is there help?
Although there’s no known cure for OCD, there’s a number of treatments available. Caution should be used in weighing out treatment options though. Some purported treatments are not supported by a preponderance of evidence. Questionable treatments for OCD include psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, psychosurgery, and electro convulsive therapy (ECT).
The two most common, effective, and proven forms of treatment available for OCD are psychotropic drugs and behavioral therapy. Many doctors suggest medication in combination with behavioral therapy. This way suffers can learn techniques to relieve or stop the intrusive thoughts and to control compulsive behaviors.
The severity of untreated OCD generally tends to worsen over time. It can become completely debilitating. If someone in your family has symptoms of OCD, contact your mental health provider for a confidential evaluation. With proper treatment, many OCD sufferers are able to lead normal and productive lives.
The negative obsessive compulsive disorder effects on family might also indicate behavioral treatment for the family to learn coping strategies.
- Fear of running over someone while driving
- Fear of contamination
- Fear of harming others
- Fear of blurting obscenities or insults
- Preoccupation with a part of the body
- Violent, horrific, or disgusting images
- Superstitions or persistent thoughts of lucky/unlucky colors, etc.
- Extreme concern with religious issues, values, or morals
- Repeated checking of doors, ovens, locks, plugs, etc.
- Repeated rituals such as counting, going in and out doors a number of times, etc.
- Excessive arranging and rearranging
- Hoarding or collecting mail, newspapers, food, etc.
- Repeated confessions or asking repeated questions for reassurance
- Prolonged or repeated bathing or hand washing
- Repeatedly checking for mistakes
- Repeatedly drawing up lists
Kimberly Blaker is freelance mental health writer. If you need blog posts, content, or articles on mental health topics, she’s available for hire.