The main characteristics of Pure Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
These are the most important characteristics of Pure Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has become one of the most common mental disorders over the years.
Commonly, when we think of OCD, we picture a person who has the need to wash his or her hands excessively, or a person who has to turn the light switch on and off a certain number of times to feel calm.
However, OCD does not always present visible compulsions, sometimes obsessions with mental compulsions or without compulsions can occur. When this happens we could be speaking of a type of OCD known as Pure Obsessive Compulsive Disorder..
What is an obsession and what is a compulsion?
We could define the concept of obsession as an intense and persistent thought in relation to a specific subject. The obsession can vary in intensity and frequency, it can go from a slight transitory thought, to a constant thought that covers all the attention and mental energy of a person.
On the other hand, we have the concept of compulsion, which we can define as a behavior that intends to neutralize the anxiety generated by the obsession.. Compulsion, like obsession, can range from a brief and discrete behavior to a very notorious behavior.
For the cycle of obsession and compulsion to occur, there must be an event that introduces or precipitates the obsessive idea. It can be an everyday experience such as a conversation about a specific topic.
Some examples of common obsessions and compulsions in people with OCD:
Precipitating event : watching a documentary about lethal microorganisms.
Obsession : the idea that surfaces are contaminated by harmful microorganisms Compulsion : constantly cleaning surfaces to eliminate germs.
Precipitating event: reading about the number of accidents that occur daily.
Obsession: thinking that loved ones will suffer a fatal accident.
Compulsion: turning the light on and off to prevent the catastrophic event from happening.
Characteristics of Pure Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
In this subtype of OCD a precipitating event generates the obsession, but the compulsions are not observable to people living around the OCD sufferer. In these cases the obsession is very intense and can completely take over the person's attention.
Let's look at some of them example of Pure OCD:
Precipitating idea: reading about a recently committed crime.
Obsession: the person constantly wonders if he/she would be capable of committing a similar crime.
Compulsion: analyzing and reflecting on one's thoughts to see if one has violent ideas. Imagining scenarios where one harms others to test one's own reaction.
Precipitating event: in a conversation the question about the meaning of life arises.
Obsession: constantly wondering about the meaning of life or the nature of the universe.
Compulsion: reflecting, ascertaining and even generating mental debates to find answers related to the universe and the meaning of existence.
What are the causes of pure OCD?
Like any other psychological/psychiatric condition, we could say that the causes that generate the appearance of OCD are multifactorialbut in essence we could expose some factors that influence the manifestation of this picture the following elements.
Recent studies have described alterations in the serotoninergic systems.. Low serotonin production and therefore a high activity of the orbitofrontal cortex have been observed.
Other studies associate the manifestation of OCD with alterations in the amygdala and in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Such alterations would explain the deficits in tasks such as planning and working memory, as well as cognitive rigidity and high levels of anxiety in people diagnosed with OCD.
2. Family/systemic factors
Within the family factors we can commonly find histories in which the education is strict and sometimes rigid. Ambivalence on the part of the paternal figures may be observed, where an extremely present and overprotective maternal figure may coexist with an emotionally distant or totally absent paternal figure.
It is common for OCD patients to grow up in homes where strong religious and moral beliefs prevailed. Perfectionism and fear of error are two elements inherited from a severe upbringing. During adolescence the sum of rigid core beliefs and introjected irrational ideas crystallize obsessive compulsive behaviors and thus OCD.
3. Cognitive/behavioral factors
In people diagnosed with OCD it is common to observe a set of irrational core ideas regarding themselves and the world. Some beliefs are related to an incessant need to feel useful and productive, avoiding failure at all costs by means of very excessive measures or even the central belief of being in control of all things all the time..... Ideas that are impossible to maintain over time and that when they collide with reality generate anxiety and depressive symptoms.
What does pure OCD look like in a person?
It is common to observe that the obsessive ideas that manifest themselves in pure OCD are related to questions or statements that are difficult to verify or answer.. The vast majority of the themes present in pure obsessions are religious, interpersonal or existential.
A person with pure OCD may begin to wonder whether he or she is really in love with his or her partner, whether he or she is fulfilling his or her life mission, or even whether existence has meaning.
All of the above are extremely subjective questions for which observable verification is hard to come by, making the obsession intense and the compulsion present in a mental space (being aware of the thoughts you are having or having discussions about the topic with yourself).
What is the treatment for pure OCD?
Psychotherapy and psychopharmacological treatment significantly improves the quality of life of people with OCDas obsessions, rumination and anxiety are reduced. In pharmacology, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are used, while a good response has been observed when using Exposure Therapy with Response Prevention (ERP).
On the other hand, it is advisable to make certain changes in daily habits such as implementing an exercise routine, reducing or avoiding alcohol consumption, and integrating activities that allow socializing with other people.
Finally, the latest neurobiological studies indicate that reducing gluten consumption can improve the mental state of people affected with OCD and anxiety disorders, due to the relationship between gluten and anxiety disorders.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)