Three theories of obsessive-compulsive disorder

Although science has made great strides in understanding obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), researchers are still not sure what causes this condition. There are many theories about the causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder, although biological and genetic causes have gained the most recognition.

Biological theory

The biological causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder studied the circuit relay system between the orbitofrontal cortex and the thalamus. The orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for complex behaviors such as emotion regulation, evaluation, reward-based decision-making, and other goal-oriented behaviors.

The circuit of the orbitofrontal cortex includes other areas, such as the caudate nucleus of the basal ganglia, which is related to functions such as cognition and voluntary movement.When this circuit is activated, these impulses will attract your attention and cause you to make specific behaviors that deal with the impulses appropriately.

For example, after using the bathroom, you may start washing your hands to remove any harmful bacteria you may encounter. Once you have taken the appropriate behavior—in this case, washing your hands—the impulse from the brain circuits will diminish, and you will stop washing your hands and continue your day.

Unstoppable impulse

Some people suggest that if you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, your brain will have difficulty closing or ignoring impulses from this circuit.In turn, this can lead to repetitive behaviors called obsessive-compulsive disorder and uncontrollable thoughts called obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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For example, after leaving the bathroom, your brain may not be able to eliminate polluting thoughts, causing you to wash your hands again and again.

To support this research, obsessive-compulsive beliefs and compulsive behaviors associated with OCD are usually related to sex, aggression, and pollution, which are also controlled by these specific circuits.In addition, neuroimaging studies by scientists and doctors observing your brain have confirmed the abnormal activity of this brain circuit.

Scans of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder showed abnormal activity in different parts of the circuit, including the orbitofrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, and basal ganglia caudate nucleus.

Serotonin system

In addition, because many patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder respond to drug therapy, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which can promote the secretion of neurochemical serotonin, some people think that the dysfunction of these brain circuits may be related to the serotonin system. The problem is related.


Some people also think that obsessive-compulsive disorder is related to genetic factors. If family members have OCD, and approximately 25% of close family members of people with OCD have the disease, then you are more likely to develop OCD.

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The twin studies of identical twins also showed that if one of the twins has OCD, then the twins are more likely to have OCD, which explains the genetic connection. Twin studies also show that for children, genetic factors may account for 45% to 65% of the risk of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Cognitive behavior theory

Almost everyone experiences strange or unexpected thoughts throughout the day. According to the cognitive behavioral theory of obsessive-compulsive disorder, if you are susceptible to obsessive-compulsive disorder, you cannot ignore these ideas.In addition, some people with OCD may feel that they should be able to control these thoughts, and these thoughts are dangerous.

For example, you may think that having these thoughts means that you are going crazy, or that you may actually perform imaginary or scared behaviors (such as stabbing your partner). Because these thoughts are marked as dangerous, you need to be vigilant and vigilant, just like if you hear about a burglar nearby, you may constantly look out the window.

Constant attention to these ideas may further strengthen the dangers of these ideas.This will form a vicious circle, and you will be trapped in monitoring these dangerous thoughts. Being trapped in this cycle can make it difficult—if not impossible—to focus on anything other than painful thoughts. Obsessed at this time.

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Compulsive behaviors such as hand-washing may be a learned process. For example, in response to feeling contaminated, you may wash your hands. This will reduce your anxiety, make you feel good, and strengthen your hand washing behavior.

Because of this reinforcement, every time you experience obsessions (such as pollution), you will be forced (such as washing your hands) to reduce your anxiety.

Psychodynamic theory

The psychodynamic theory of OCD states that OCD and OCD are signs of unconscious conflicts that you may be trying to suppress, resolve, or cope with.These conflicts arise when unconscious desires (usually related to sexual or aggressive impulses) are inconsistent with socially acceptable behavior.

In some cases, when these conflicts are very offensive or distressing, one can only deal with them indirectly by shifting them to something more manageable, such as hand washing, inspection or ordering.Some psychodynamic treatments show that making a person aware of their unconscious conflict can reduce their symptoms, but more research is needed.