Sunday, April 18, 2010

Is OCD Hereditary?

For this week's reading on psychological disorders, the topic of Obsessive-Compulsive disorder caught my attention because I know a few people with this issue. As most already know, OCD is an abnormal mental condition that causes people to develop uncontrollable thoughts or impulses (obsession) that can only be relieved throughout repetitive performances of certain tasks (compulsion). These acts range from repeatedly washing hands and taking bathes due to fear of contamination to hoarding for fear that something bad might happen if they thrown anything away. However, in most extreme cases of OCD, patients cannot carry out normal daily routines because they are so engrossed in performing their own obsessive tasks.

The author of the article happens to have had a father plagued with extreme OCD that leads him to speculate whether or not this disorder is hereditary since she does not have the disease. Her father follows a very strict pattern everyday - doing things in exact orders. Any interruption of these tasks can cause him to go into a state of shock. His OCD case was so severe that he had to live in an isolated farm alone.

So why do some people have OCD and others don't? Does it run in the family? Up until now, there are no solid evidence that suggests correlation between genetics and OCD. However, two recent studies reveal a linkage between genes and OCD: a glutamate transporter gene called SLC1A1. Variation in this transporter gene may put a person at risk of developing OCD. And even though the linkage between the SLC1A1 gene and OCD is not yet solid enough, research shows that OCD does tend to run in the family. If close relatives have OCD, you are nine times more likely to develop the disorder.

I've never actually known that OCD could be as extreme as having to go live alone in an isolated place, away from society. I know a friend who has to get up every fifteen minutes to arrange his shelves. Another has to mop her entire apartment with rubbing alcohol before she can call it a night. I used to think it's stupid. But after having read about OCD in the text book and in this article, it opened my eyes to the fact that they really cannot help it. And even though there are ways to relieve this disorder through therapy and medication, my friends - along with many others plagued OCD, won't be cured because most are not willing to admit they are abnormal. And how can someone come to the realization that they have OCD (both mild and severe)? After having read this article, I also began to think about some of my 'obsessive' behaviors, like having to wash the dishes as soon as there is on lying in the sink. Is that just sheer love for cleanliness? Or is there something deeper than that? Well, for now, it's not that bad because I'm still sensible enough to realize that writing this blog post is more important than getting the dishes done.

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