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Almost everyone has thoughts that circle in a loop or habits they repeat. However, recurring thoughts and repeated behaviors cross over to obsessions and compulsions when they interrupt a person’s life, interfering with work, school or relationships. A person suffering from OCD may have either obsessions or compulsions, or both. Often the obsessive thought leads to anxiety and then to a compulsive behavior to mollify that fear. Some common OCD rituals include repeated counting, washing hands or arranging items. There are many signs and symptoms of OCD which can vary and fluctuate in intensity over time. People suffering with OCD sometimes avoid situations that trigger their anxiety. Typically, stress can lead to worsening symptoms.

Symptoms of OCD

  • Uncontrolled thoughts or behaviors
  • Can’t stop even when those thoughts or behaviors are recognized as excessive
  • Spending at least 1 hour a day on the thoughts or behaviors
  • Little or no pleasure from compulsive rituals, other than brief relief
  • Thoughts or behaviors lead to problems in daily life
  • Motor or verbal tic, ie eye twitching, shoulder shrugging, throat clearing

OCD and the Brain

Individuals with a family history of OCD or who were physically or sexually abused as children are more likely to experience obsessions and compulsions. Brain imagining studies have shown that people with OCD have significant variations in the frontal cortex and subcortical structures of the brain. These connections are currently the subject of several studies. The Anxiety and Depression Association of American is currently conducting trials of TMS on patients with OCD with the hopes of having TMS approved for OCD by the FDA. To read more, please click here. However, OCD has been successfully treated with TMS for sometime. In 2012, Dr. Phil did a series of shows on OCD and highlights the brain’s role in this disorder and discusses breakthrough treatments like TMS for people suffering from OCD.