Trial and Error: Diagnosing and Treating OCD

By: Sharmila Dass

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects about 2 to 3% percent of the world’s population and usually begins in individuals ranging from 22 to 36 years old (Jenike, 2005). Individuals that suffer from OCD have feelings that something bad will occur if he or she does not perform a specific ritual. This phenomenon can lead to anxiety and an unexplainable feeling of incompleteness (Jenike, 2005). In other words, individuals cannot continue, or even, start their day without making sure that they have completed all steps in their ritualistic activity.

Because this is a psychiatric illness that needs to be dealt with carefully, physicians created a basis for determining whether or not a patient has OCD and measuring the severity of the condition. According to Jenike’s article, patients that have OCD usually understand that their behavior is extreme and unusually different and try to hide their feelings because they are embarrassed. However, some patients genuinely feel as if they are correct and so they go to great lengths to justify the reasons as to why they have obsessive and compulsive thoughts and act in a ritualistic manner. There is no physical test to diagnose patients with OCD. Instead, physicians rely on routine screening questions to assist in the diagnosis. In his 2005 study, it was stated that these questions ask if the patient has repetitive thoughts that make him or her anxious, if they clean or wash their hands frequently, and if they overly check things. If their answer is a definite yes to any of these questions, further tests are done to determine the correct diagnosis (Jenike, 2005).

 Once a diagnosis is made, treatment follows. With a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, patients feel a reduced effect of their illness, but it is difficult to completely eradicate. Behavioral therapy includes facing their fears and the basis of their OCD and preventing Obsessive-compulsive thoughts, such as repetitive thoughts regarding violence and the fear of germs (Jenike, 2005). Cognitive therapy includes challenging the patient’s maladaptive thoughts – thoughts that are viewed as unstable and flawed like the belief that one must be loved by everyone in order to have and feel self-worth (Jenike, 2005). Medication such as serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, a type of drug that affects the chemicals that nerves in the brain use to send messages, can be taken alone but only have a moderate effect on the patient (Selective Serotonin, 2015). Therefore, when medications alone fail, physicians treat their patients with a combination of serotonin-reuptake inhibitors and another drug to treat effectively. However, the most effective form tends to be a mixture of cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication. The last resort is neurosurgery, which is avoided except in the most extreme cases (Jenike, 2005).

It is difficult to properly diagnose and treat OCD but with the support of family and friends, the journey to a healthy lifestyle is a little easier. Of course it takes a long time and a substantial amount of therapy to even reduce the effects of OCD, but it is possible to once again, live a normal life. If you know someone that exhibits signs of obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors, reach out to them because they are usually embarrassed by their illness or scared of someone’s reaction to them (Jenike, 2005).



Jenike, Michael. “Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder.” Massachusetts Medical Society, 12 Aug. 2005. Web. 5 Oct. 2015. < Disorder.pdf>.

“Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor.” MedicineNet, Inc., 4 Oct. 2015. Web. 5 Oct. 2015. <>.





Sharmila Dass

My focus is to relate the social aspects of medicine to the everyday treatment of patients as physicians. I hope to learn about the underlying roots of illnesses with a stigma and raise awareness to these issues. Mental health is a prevalent issue in society and can be seen as "nonexistent" to some, especially in the South Asian community. I have witnessed depression in a few family members and close friends and want to learn as much as possible to help not only them, but others in the future. When I am not in class or studying, I love to dance and play tennis.

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