Obsessive-compulsive disorder causes

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [5]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Priyanka Kumari, M.B.B.S[6] Sonya Gelfand, Abhishek Reddy


It is generally agreed that neurotransmitters, biological, psychological, and environmental factors all play a potential role in causing obsessive–compulsive disorder.



  • Compulsions, according to learning theorists, may be a person's response to anxiety or discomfort. Compulsions, in particular, are thought to be responses that help a person avoid or reduce the anxiety and discomfort associated with a particular obsession or urge.[1]
  • Some theorists also believe that misinterpretation of intrusive thoughts leads to obsessive and compulsive behaviors. People with OCD misinterpret these intrusive thoughts as being important, personally significant, or having disastrous consequences, and as a result, engage in compulsive behavior to combat, resist, or neutralize the distress they cause.[1]


  • Different species have evolved to protect themselves by gathering or hoarding food and constantly scanning the environment for potential threats. These evolutionary traits, which have been passed down through generations, could be a psychological cause of OCD.[2]


  • OCD has been linked to abnormalities in the neurotransmitter serotonin. Individuals suffering from OCD may have serotonin receptors that are understimulated, according to a theory. This theory is supported by the fact that many OCD patients benefit from the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant that increases serotonin availability to serotonin receptors.


  • In unrelated families with OCD, a mutation in the human serotonin transporter gene, hSERT, has been discovered.[5]
  • People with OCD had higher volumes of regional grey matter extending from bilateral lenticular nuclei, to the caudate nuclei, and lower volumes in bilateral dorsal medial frontal/anterior cingulate gyri.[6]
  • PANDAS, a syndrome linked to Group A streptococcal infections, or immunologic reactions to other pathogens may cause rapid onset of OCD in children and adolescents. [7]

Neurotransmitters role

  • People with OCD have a different pattern of brain activity than people without OCD, as per brain scans. The scans also reveal different circuitry functioning in the striatum.[8]
  • Individuals with OCD have abnormal dopamine and serotonin activity in various brain regions, which can be classified as dopaminergic hyperfunction in the prefrontal cortex and serotonergic hypofunction in the basal ganglia.[9]


  • OCD is not caused by stress, but it can be triggered by a stressful event. If OCD is not treated, anxiety and stress in one's life will significantly worsen symptoms. Problems at school or at work, as well as problems in everyday relationships, could all contribute to a person's OCD becoming more frequent and severe.[10]


  • According to researchers, people who have experienced physical or sexual trauma are more likely to develop OCD.[11]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 Maia TV, Cooney RE, Peterson BS (2008). "The neural bases of obsessive-compulsive disorder in children and adults". Dev Psychopathol. 20 (4): 1251–83. doi:10.1017/S0954579408000606. PMC 3079445. PMID 18838041.
  2. Bracha, H. (2006). "Human brain evolution and the "Neuroevolutionary Time-depth Principle:" Implications for the Reclassification of fear-circuitry-related traits in DSM-V and for studying resilience to warzone-related posttraumatic stress disorder". Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 30 (5): 827–853. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2006.01.008. PMID 16563589.
  3. BBC Science and Nature: Human Body and Mind. Causes of OCD. [1]
  4. Abramowitz, Jonathan; et al, Steven; McKay, Dean (2009). "Obsessive-compulsive disorder". The Lancet 374 (9688): 491–9. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.108.055046. PMID 19880927.
  5. Ozaki, N., D Goldman, W. H., Plotnicov, K., Greenberg, B. D., J Lappalainen, G. R., & Murphy, D. L. (2003). Serotonin transporter missense mutation associated with a complex neuropsychiatric phenotype. Molecular Psychiatry, Volume 8, 933-936. [2]
  6. PMID 19880927 [3]
  7. "PANDAS studies are no longer recruiting patients".[4] Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health, Pediatrics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch. 24 February 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  8. "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Cause". 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  9. "New approach to obsessive-compulsive disorder: dopaminergic theories"
  10. What causes OCD
  11. Abramowitz JS, Taylor S, McKay D (2009). "Obsessive-compulsive disorder". Lancet. 374 (9688): 491–9. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60240-3. PMID 19665647.

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