Facts about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: NIMH
Article title: Facts about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: NIMH
Conditions: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
How Common Is OCD?
- About 2.3% of the U.S. population ages 18 to 54 - approximately 3.3
million Americans - has OCD in a given year.
- OCD affects men and women equally.
- OCD typically begins during adolescence or early childhood; at least
one-third of the cases of adult OCD began in childhood.
- OCD cost the U.S. $8.4 billion in 1990 in social and economic
losses, nearly 6% of the total mental health bill of $148 billion.
What Causes OCD?
There is growing evidence that OCD represents
abnormal functioning of brain circuitry, probably involving a part of the
brain called the striatum. OCD is not caused by family problems or
attitudes learned in childhood, such as an inordinate emphasis on
cleanliness, or a belief that certain thoughts are dangerous or
unacceptable. Brain imaging studies using a technique called positron
emission tomography (PET) have compared people with and without OCD. Those
with OCD have patterns of brain activity that differ from people with
other mental illnesses or people with no mental illness at all. In
addition, PET scans show that in patients with OCD, both behavioral
therapy and medication produce changes in the striatum. This is graphic
evidence that both psychotherapy and medication affect the brain.
What Treatments Are Available for OCD?
Treatments for OCD have
been developed through research supported by the NIMH and other research
institutions. These treatments, which combine medications and behavioral
therapy (a specific type of psychotherapy), are often effective. Several
medications have been proven effective in helping people with OCD:
clomipramine, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, sertraline, and paroxetine. If one
drug is not effective, others should be tried. A number of other
medications are currently being studied. A type of behavioral therapy
known as "exposure and response prevention" is very useful for treating
OCD. In this approach, a person is deliberately and voluntarily exposed to
whatever triggers the obsessive thoughts, and then is taught techniques to
avoid performing the compulsive rituals and to deal with the anxiety.
Can People With OCD Also Have Other Illnesses?
OCD is sometimes
accompanied by depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder, or other anxiety disorders. When a person
also has other disorders, OCD is often more difficult to diagnose and
treat. Symptoms of OCD can also coexist and may even be part of a spectrum
of other brain disorders, such as Tourette's syndrome. Appropriate
diagnosis and treatment of other disorders are important to successful
treatment of OCD.
For more information about obsessive-compulsive disorder and
other anxiety disorders, write:
The Anxiety Disorders Education Program, National Institute of
6001 Executive Blvd.
Room 8184, MSC
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Or call 301-443-4513.
Publications and other information are also available online from
the NIMH Website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/ or by
calling toll-free 1-88-88-ANXIETY (1-888-826-9438).
Publication No. OM-99 4154 (Revised)
Printed September 1999
Updated: February 06, 2001
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