Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Behavioral Neurosciences

A notable role among mental illnesses is played by syndromes (sets of symptoms) grouped under the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is named after the Latin terms obsessio and compulsio. In a broad sense, the core of obsessive-compulsive disorder is a condition in which the clinical picture is dominated by thoughts that arise against the patient’s wishes but with an awareness of their morbidity (Chamberlain et al., 2021). Despite an understanding of the unnaturalness and illogical nature of the obsessions and states, the patients are powerless in their attempts to overcome them. Obsessive urges or ideas are recognized as alien to the personality but as if coming from within. Compulsive behaviors may be the performance of rituals designed to alleviate anxiety. Attempts to push away uninvited thoughts or urges may lead to a severe internal struggle accompanied by intense fear. Such attempts only worsen the patient’s condition and increase distress. Eventually, to alleviate the stress, the patient engages in increasingly compulsive behaviors.

OCD is often focused on specific themes – for example, an excessive fear of being infected by germs. To alleviate the anxiety of infection, you may obsessively wash your hands until your skin chafes. There are several theories among the causes of OCD. The biological approach suggests that OCD may result from changes in your body’s natural chemistry or brain functions. The genetic theory states that OCD may have a genetic component, but the specific genes responsible for causing the disorder have yet to be identified. Finally, the learning theory states that compulsive fears and compulsive behavior can be learned by observing family members or gradually developed over time (Chamberlain et al., 2021). OCD usually starts in adolescence or young adulthood but can also manifest in childhood. Symptoms typically begin slowly and tend to change in severity throughout life. The types of obsessions and experiences may change over time and intensify during times of stress. OCD is usually seen as a lifelong disorder, and over the years, can have symptoms ranging from mild to almost disabling. It includes both obsessive and compulsive manifestations, but only one condition may predominate.

The patient may not realize that their obsessions and compulsive behaviors are excessive or unreasonable, but they are time-consuming and interfere with daily life and social relationships. Obsessive symptoms include recurrent, persistent, and unwanted thoughts, urges, or compulsive images and cause anxiety or distress (Chamberlain et al., 2021). Usually, the patient either tries to ignore them or get rid of the ideas through compulsive ritualistic activities. Among the most common types of obsessive behavior is fear of getting dirty, persistent mistrust, insecurity about everything, rigid organization of one’s space and objects, and an increased craving for order.

Compulsivity in OCD manifests itself in pathological cyclical behaviors that supposedly help reduce anxiety, but they provide only temporary relief. The most common types of compulsive behavior are frantic washing, cleaning, checking and rechecking the same things, and counting, recounting, compulsive mathematical activities in mind. The problems resulting from obsessive-compulsive disorder are most often related to social life: difficulties at work, low quality of life, excessively long rituals, and cycles of activities that slow down the daily course of life. The main aim of treating OCD is to get the symptoms under control so that they do not affect the patient’s everyday life.


Chamberlain, S. R., Solly, J. E., Hook, R. W., Vaghi, M. M., & Robbins, T.W. (2021). Cognitive Inflexibility in OCD and Related Disorders. In: Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences. Springer. Web.

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