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How OCD leads to uncontrollable behaviors

Picture by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that causes uncontrollable and unwanted behaviours. A person with compulsive disorders feels the need to repeat certain actions over and over again. Usually caused by anxiety, OCD can also be the result of post-traumatic stress. Symptoms of obsessions and compulsive behaviours and thoughts characterize this mental disorder. This particularity can be long-lasting and sometimes impact the daily life, work and social life of people who experience it. OCD can manifest itself in different forms. This kind of disorder can result in verification behaviours such as lights, locks or closed and open doors. It can also appear as a fear of contamination. People with OCD can be scared of dirty things, this can lead to compulsive cleaning behaviours and intensive and very regular hand washing. People with OCD can be very focused on the symmetry of objects when they put their stuff in order and that causes them to align objects in a certain way. OCD can also be in the form of uncontrollable thoughts and can sometimes lead to aggressive or disturbing behaviour. According to the ICD (International Classification of Diseases), 2.5% to 7% of the global population have OCD, which represented 792 millions of people in 2017. 

This podcast tells the story of Rhiannon Shipton, an 18 years old girl who has OCD symptoms. Even if this disorder influences her daily life sometimes, she decided to accept this particularity and learn how to live with it.

If you’ve been affected by OCD and need help, visit this website ( or call ‘The other clinic” number: (01) 536 3560

Brain Structure and genetic heritage 

Scientists have found differences in the brain physiology of people who have OCD. In a patient with OCD, the frontal cortex and subcortical have differences from the brain of a person who does not have OCD. According to scientists, abnormalities in certain areas of the brain could be the cause of OCD. Under-activation of some regions and functional changes would be at the origin of these so-called “unusual” behaviours. Nevertheless, OCD may also be due to genetic heritage. Genes may increase the chances of getting OCD and influence the way the brain works. Dr Samuel Chamberlain at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry took a closer look at this disorder. By using, functional magnetic resonance imaging, Dr Chamberlain analysed the brain activity of 14 people without a genetic heritage including OCD and 14 people with OCD symptoms and their close family. The tests showed that the brain of OCD patients and their families activate in different regions than people without OCD symptoms. Dr Chamberlain said: “Impaired function in brain areas controlling flexible behaviour probably predisposes people to develop the compulsive rigid symptoms that are characteristic of OCD. This study shows that these brain changes run in families and represent a candidate vulnerability factor”.

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