What Causes OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)?

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-17 08:40

Obsessive hand-washing may be rooted in overactive pathways in the brain.

Scientists have found that a missing protein in the brain may be the cause of OCD.

Colloquial jargon has somehow transformed the meaning of obsessive-compulsive disorder to being incredibly neat and organized. In reality, this disorder is like a much more magnified version of the colloquial one. Being neat and organized is simply being neat and organized. Having a disorder, however, is a different thing entirely.

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder have persistent intrusive thoughts that distress them and affect their behavior. To deal with these thoughts, they engage in repetitive behaviors that alleviate feelings of anxiety and distress. Some are extremely afraid of contracting disease through bacteria, which then propels them to repeatedly wash their hands. This repetitive behavior can lead to hand-washing that becomes so excessive that welts or irritation appear on their hands.

Obsessive Thoughts and Compulsive Behaviors

Most people deal with intrusive thoughts now and then. Some are also more conscious about hygiene than others. However, the difference is that for most people, these thoughts are not persistent. They may also wash their hands more often than others, but not to the point of injury. They may also be able to control intrusive thoughts through distraction. However, for people with OCD, their thoughts and behaviors are more difficult to control.

An estimated 2.3% of adults worldwide suffer from OCD. The condition usually manifests before the age of 25. External causes like life changes, significant loss, or overwhelming responsibility may trigger the symptoms, which may wax or wane over time. Sufferers may avoid things that trigger symptoms or consume drugs or alcohol to cope.

People with this disorder may also take antidepressants to help control the symptoms. These antidepressants are the same ones that people with depression, eating disorders, or other similar conditions take. As such, these anti-depressants do not actually target the specific causes and symptoms of OCD. There is therefore a need for specialized medication that specifically targets this disorder.

Finding the Cause of OCD

A team of researchers have found the cause of excessive grooming behavior in mice. They discovered that the protein SPRED2 is of particular significance. The absence of this protein in mice triggered excessive grooming, which then led to facial lesions.

There are high concentrations of SPRED2 in the brain. This protein blocks the Ras/ERK-MAP kinase cascade, a cellular signal pathway. Thus, the absence of SPRED2 enables this pathway to become more active. The researchers found that obsessive-compulsive behavior in mice diminished when they inhibited the pathway. Therefore, a more active pathway may lead to compulsive behaviors.

The discovery of the connection between OCD and the Ras/ERK-MAP kinase cascade may open up new possibilities in improved treatment. Fortunately, there are drugs for treating cancer that can inhibit this cascade. An active Ras/ERK-MAP kinase cascade also plays a role in the development of cancer.

With these new discoveries and developments, there may be a better treatment plan for OCD. Sufferers may have a better chance of leading as normal a life as possible.

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