What Causes OCD?

Laura Evans
Laura Evans
Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.
Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.

Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a psychiatric disorder that forces people to perform repetitive acts or rituals in an effort to prevent unwanted thoughts. What causes OCD is not exactly known, although there are theories. Treatments for OCD may include psychotherapy and drugs.

There are several theories about what causes OCD. One of these theories is biological. Some think that biological changes in brain or body chemistry may result in developing obsessive compulsive disorder. In addition, OCD may run in families, although a specific gene or genes related to OCD have not yet been discovered. It is thought that genetics alone cannot cause OCD.

Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.
Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.

Another biological theory about what causes OCD focuses specifically on serotonin, a chemical which is produced in the intestines and the brain. Among the processes that serotonin affects is moods. The concept in this case is that a low levels of serotonin production can lead to obsessive compulsive disorder.

Strep throat is a throat infection caused by the group A streptococcus bacteria. One of the theories about what causes OCD considers childhood strep infections as a contributor. When the body has strep throat or other infections, the body makes antibodies to attack the bacteria involved. The bacteria that cause strep throat have characteristics that resemble the characteristics of brain cells. This could lead antibodies to become aggressive against brain cells in addition to the bacteria that causes strep throat, leading to OCD.

Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.
Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.

In addition to biological and biology related factors, another contributor to developing OCD might be environmental. This means that obsessive compulsive behaviors might be learned. Like genetic factors, environmental factors alone might not cause OCD, but may add to the risks of developing obsessive compulsive disorder.

OCD is an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of OCD vary from person to person, although the symptoms involve thoughts and actions to prevent those thoughts from reoccurring. For example, a person may be afraid of dirt or germs and wash his hands over and over again unnecessarily or a person may scrub the kitchen floor with strong chemicals all over to clean up a small spill that he fears will result in bacteria growing. Another example might be a person who goes back to check the front door to make sure that the door is locked even though the person was 99.9 percent sure that the door was locked. Obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms can range from mildly annoying to life disrupting.

Charles Darwin may have had OCD.
Charles Darwin may have had OCD.

Many people who have OCD are still able to contribute to society, although their personal lives may be quite unpleasant at times. One such person was American billionaire aviator Howard Hughes (1905-1976). Other OCD sufferers may have included the Italian painter, sculptor, and inventor Michelangelo (1475-1564) and English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882).

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    • Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.
      Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.
    • Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.
      Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.
    • Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.
      Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.
    • Charles Darwin may have had OCD.
      Charles Darwin may have had OCD.
    • Michelangelo is suspected to have suffered from OCD.
      Michelangelo is suspected to have suffered from OCD.
    • There are many different treatment options for overcoming obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
      There are many different treatment options for overcoming obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
    • An unrealistic fear of germs can cause OCD symptoms.
      An unrealistic fear of germs can cause OCD symptoms.