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Ocd: Do We Choose or Are We Programmed?

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Do We Choose Or Are We Programmed?
Erika Dixon
Algonquin College
ENL1813 Communications
Persuasive Research Essay

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Do We Choose Or Are We Programmed?
Sometimes I ask myself, “Where did my OCD Come From?” or, I have a mental breakdown and ask myself, “What am I doing?” Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is unwanted repetitive behaviours and thoughts that torture about 2% of the population (, 2014). Some people are convinced that this behaviour is a choice, and that people with OCD are pretending because they want attention. Although researchers don’t know exactly what causes OCD, they know it’s real, and research is proving that people are subconsciously programmed and nurtured into this behaviour through biology, family history, and life experiences (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2014).
Biological factors relating to the possible causes of OCD are an area of considerable research and theory, and it suggests that the brain of a person with OCD has irregular interactions, which makes them have uncontrollable repetitive behaviours and thoughts (, 2014). Biological causes of OCD have focused on a circuit in the brain which regulates primitive aspects of our behaviour such as aggression, sexuality, and bodily excretions (OCD-UK, 2013). When this circuit becomes activated, certain impulses are brought to your attention and cause you to perform a particular behaviour that appropriately addresses the impulse (OCD-UK, 2013). Abnormalities and imbalances in serotonin could also be to blame, because serotonin regulates everything from mood, aggression, impulse control, sleep, appetite, body temperature, and pain (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2012). All of the medicines used to treat OCD raise the levels of serotonin available, to transmit messages within the brain more effectively (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2012). Several brain imaging studies have been used to show the differences between the brains of people with OCD and those without OCD (OCD-UK, 2013). Despite the recognition, the scientific community is not sure if it is a cause for, or a result of, having the disorder, and how these differences relate to the precise mechanisms of OCD (OCD-UK, 2013). Although there has been a broad range of theories and considerable research, scientists so far have not been able to identify a definitive biological cause for a person developing OCD (OCD-UK, 2013).
Since the early years of the twentieth century, clinicians have suspected that family history plays an important role in the development of OCD (Nestadt, Grados, & Samuels, 2010). Several studies of families have shown a strong connection between a parent’s obsessive compulsive symptoms and those of their children (A.D.A.M, 2013). Although an inherited trait may be present, some researchers believe that many children can learn these behaviours just by observing a parent, sibling, or other close relative (A.D.A.M, 2013). Researchers have gone into in depth studies to prove OCD occurs much more commonly among relatives of OCD sufferers, than relatives of people without OCD (Nestadt, Grados, & Samuels, 2010). These researchers have come to a conclusion that they have enough evidence to support that OCD is a familial disorder (Nestadt, Grados, & Samuels, 2010). In addition to finding that OCD runs in families, the study showed that the earlier individuals develop these symptoms, the more likely they are to have a familial type of this condition (Nestadt, Grados, & Samuels, 2010). When the age of OCD onset was 5 to 17 years, the occurrence of OCD in relatives was 13.8%, but it was 0% in patients whose symptoms began between ages 18 to 41 (WebMD Health News, 2010). In other words, early onset of OCD symptoms indicates a strong genetic component within the disorder, and it could be a strong predictor of a child developing OCD (WebMD Health News, 2010). Children are being programmed by genetic factors and nurtured by OCD symptoms of first degree relatives (Beyond OCD, 2015).
Life experiences, such as traumatic and stressful events that occurred relatively early throughout an individual’s life, have not yet been confirmed an actual cause of OCD. Researchers tend to focus more on the biological and genetic causes of the disorder, rather than focusing on the psychological causes (OCD-UK, 2013). Many people who suffer from OCD will report that symptoms started occurring after a particular life event (Williams, 2011). However, particular life events are not thought to cause the OCD, but rather trigger it in someone already predisposed to the disorder (OCD-UK, 2013). The specific content of obsessions can be influenced by events that occur in a person's life, and this can be seen in cross-cultural studies of OCD (Williams, 2011). To further explain, the norms of society are differential according to varying demographics, therefore, particular life events triggering OCD would be different in each demographic area (Williams, 2011). The events that traumatize people are going to vary on several factors, such as the type of country they live in, how they were raised, parenting styles, stress, what people have seen, religious beliefs, etc. (OCD-UK, 2013). People who have had more stressful or traumatizing life events before the onset of OCD are more likely to engage in checking and symmetry compulsions (Williams, 2011). This could be an attempt to impose a degree of order in a world filled with increasing unpredictability, but it also shows how each life experience can uniquely affect the symptoms and severity of OCD (Williams, 2011). Some people are born with biological or genetic predispositions to OCD, and then a combination of life events light the fuse (Williams, 2011).
Despite the temptation to figure it all out, it is not possible to identify the exact cause of OCD in any particular person (Williams, 2011). It is clearly caused by a complex interaction of biology, family history, and life experiences (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2014). A victim’s biological and genetic factors program them to have OCD, and life experiences encourage and nurture the OCD to become active. OCD is programmed and nurtured into someone, and ultimately—inevitable.

A.D.A.M. (2013). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The New York Times. Retrieved from
Beyond OCD. (2015). What Causes OCD. Retrieved November 8, 2015, from OCD Education Station:
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2014). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Canada: Canadian Mental Health Association.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2012). Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Retrieved 11 13, 2015, from What Causes OCD?: (2014, November 24). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from Psychology Today:
Nestadt, G., Grados, M., & Samuels, J. F. (2010). Genetics of OCD. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from
OCD-UK. (2013). What Causes OCD? Retrieved November 7, 2015, from OCD-UK:
WebMD Health News. (2010). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Runs In Famalies. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from WebMD:
Williams, M. T. (2011). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and the “Root of the Problem”. Psychology Today. Retrieved from…...

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