Dr. Simpson explains if a woman can prevent obsessive compulsive disorder/OCD.
Prevention is a key area and part of the problem is we don’t know very much about what causes it or how it develops. But here is what I would say. I see a lot of people in their 30s and 40s who come for treatment then, and what’s tragic to me is I can help their symptoms, but I can’t get their life back on course. And so since OCD, half the cases start by age 19, a quarter of the cases by age 14, these people often have been suffering for years before they come for help.
So imagine if you get terrible OCD symptoms in your teens, maybe you make it through high school, but you don’t make it through college. Maybe you never really move out of your parent’s house. Maybe you don’t develop romantic relationships and never get married and, again, by the time you are in your 30s or 40s, maybe you’ve never gotten the job that you wanted, and now in your 30s or 40s there you are. I can reduce your symptoms, but I can’t get you back into your life.
And so my urge, you know, in a sense it’s not quite prevention, but if you are starting to see symptoms of OCD, I urge people, go get help then. Go get help when the symptoms are just starting and very mild because my guess is with the treatments we have, that’s going to be all you need. You educate yourself about it, and you make sure that you don’t get off track in your life.
Typically when the symptoms start, the illness has a chronic waxing and waning course. There are some people who have what I call, episodic OCD, that it really comes on in episodes and then goes away. And I think, again, the big, to not have it progress, a big issue is get treatment early so that all the consequences in your life don’t start to accrue.
Here’s an example. Patients who have bad OCD symptoms who are working, but then who lose their job, the illness starts to progress because they now spend a lot more time by themselves at home and do even more obsessing and compulsing, whereas when they went out into their job, in a sense, that they couldn’t do as much as they used to do, nd that’s actually good not to be allowed to do as much.
So one of the things to stop progression is not to check out of your life. Don’t let the symptoms have you check out of your life. Stay in your life; fight for your life and get treatment.
About Dr. Simpson, M.D., Ph.D.:
Helen Blair Simpson, M.D., Ph.D., an expert on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, New York City, where she directs the Anxiety Disorders Clinic and OCD Research Program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She was a member of the work group that developed the first “Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Patients With OCD” for the American Psychiatric Association.
Through her research, Dr. Simpson is working to trace the brain circuits believed to play a major role in the development of obsessions and compulsions, and she has developed novel approaches to treatment. Her research has been supported by a NARSAD Young Investigator grant.