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What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?


Approximately 2% of the general population has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). For many people suffering from OCD in the UAE, it feels like a frightening experience. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can take different forms, but most people usually experience repetitive, intrusive thoughts, and impulses that they cannot ignore. These thoughts cause you to perform repetitive activities to try to get relief. Although some people think they have OCD, they might just be perfectionists. OCD differs from perfectionism by the time spent on compulsion and obsession.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Definition

OCD is a mental health disorder that causes a recurring cycle of unwanted thoughts (obsessions) that cause repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These thoughts are uncontrollable and intrusive fears, impulses, sensations, or ideas that cause extreme distress. Some patients with OCD might think that their obsessions are unrealistic while others believe they are real.

Individuals carry out compulsive behaviors to try to reduce and control this distress and avert feared ideas. If you have OCD, your obsessions and compulsions might seem unnecessary and strange, but also out of control, for instance, the need to wash your hands for an hour after touching something. These repetitive actions can bring problems and interfere with your life.

Although you might experience distressing thoughts or repeat behaviors, this alone does not determine that you have OCD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a persistent and intense pattern of obsessions and compulsions that takes most of your time. It can become uncontrollable, disrupt daily life, and impair social functions.

If you ignore these obsessions and don’t go through with the compulsions, you become distressed, until you engage in the compulsive behavior. This is why it’s advisable to consult the best psychiatrists in Dubai if you have any obsessions or urges to engage in your compulsions.

Causes of OCD

Although experts don’t know the exact causes of OCD, they believe that a family history of this condition increases your risk. Impairment and irregular development of specific areas in the brain have been associated with OCD. There is evidence suggesting that OCD may relate to how the brain reacts to serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep and mood).

Risk Factors

For individuals who are genetically more likely to develop obsessive-compulsive disorder, other factors can also contribute to this condition. They include;

·       Trauma or stress – Stress at home, at work, at school, or in personal relationships increase your risk of developing or worsening the existing OCD symptoms.

·       Traumatic brain injury – OCD can appear for the first time after a head injury.

·       Abuse in childhood – Kids who experience traumatic events or abuse like severe neglect or bullying have a higher risk of OCD.

·       Personality – Specific personality traits like perfectionism, heightened feelings of responsibility, or inability to handle uncertainty may factor into obsessive-compulsive disorder.

·       Childhood acute neuropsychiatric symptoms (CANS) - For some kids, obsessive-compulsive disorder begins immediately after infection. It happens after a streptococcal infection and this syndrome is known as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcus (PANDAS). Other diseases or infections can also cause symptoms.

It is crucial to know that you can have a family history of OCD and other risk factors and still not develop the condition. People without any risk factors can also develop obsessive-compulsive disorder.



OCD has 2 types of symptoms; obsessions and compulsions. You can experience 1 or both symptoms. These symptoms are not short-lived or fleeting; even a mild symptom can take up to an hour daily and can significantly affect your life. These symptoms can affect your ability to complete tasks or pay attention at school. The compulsive behaviors feel uncontrollable even if you might realize they are not real.


Obsessive thoughts can take many forms but the most common are;

·       Fear of self-harm or harming others

·       Worries about illness, dirt, or germs

·       Fear of saying something obscene or offensive

·       Explicit violent or sexual thoughts

·       The need to be orderly

·       Worries about throwing your items away

·       Intrusive sounds, words, or images

·       Worries about your safety and health and that of your loved ones

·       Questioning your sexual orientation or desires.

Although you might try to suppress these obsessions, they keep coming and this persistence can lead to a stronger conviction that they might come true or are true if you don’t any action to prevent them.


Compulsions are repetitive mental acts or behaviors that you feel forced to engage in so you can reduce the distress brought by the obsession. These responses can be directly related to an obsessive worry or unrelated actions that reduce your anxiety. Repeating these behaviors become very demanding and time-consuming and can interfere with your daily activities.

Common compulsions include;

·       Excessive ritualized handwashing, cleaning or brushing your teeth to a point where your teeth or skin starts bleeding

·       Arranging or ordering things in a specific way

·       Avoiding using public transport, public toilets, touching door handles, shaking people’s hands

·       Repeatedly checking appliances, switches, doors, and locks

·       Doing tasks a specific number of times and in a specific way

·       Constantly seeking reassurance or approval

·       Checking on your loved ones to make sure they are okay

·       Excessive praying or doing rituals associated with religious fear

·       Repeating certain prayers, phrases, or words

·       Repeatedly tapping to a specific number, counting to a specific number, or needing to count objects

·       Hiding objects you could have used for self-harm or harming others

·       Collecting particular objects or buying several of that object.


Although you cannot prevent or cure OCD, treatment can help you deal with symptoms and improve your quality of life. Early treatment is crucial because symptoms can worsen with time. Treatment can reduce symptoms and improve functioning. It also helps to manage symptoms of related disorders like depression and anxiety. Treatment includes medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.


Although you might experience intrusive thoughts and fears, obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms are more extreme, random, unrealistic, and time-consuming. OCD is more than being organized or a perfectionist, it requires repetitive rituals and causes distress. If you think you have OCD symptoms, it is advisable to seek help from a professional like the best psychiatrists in Dubai.


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