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What are the causes and symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and how is the condition treated?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder causing uncontrollable repetitive thoughts and behaviors which can be extremely difficult to overcome.

OCD can manifest itself in almost any type of behaviour, but three of the most common are:

- repeated washing of the hands,
- excessive cleaning or arranging of household items,
- continual checking of door locks, light switches and the cooker.

These behaviours are a direct result of either:

- illogical concerns about germs and contamination
- a fear that harm may come to themselves or a loved one
- a need to do things perfectly.

The reasons behind OCD are still unclear although it is often hereditary. Experts believe it may be related to an imbalance of the chemical serotonin in the brain - the same substance responsible for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

In most cases Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be effectively treated with a combination of cognitive therapy (designed to identify and correct negative thinking) and anti-depressant medication. Very few OCD sufferers fail to overcome the disorder once a diagnosis has been made and treatment given.

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