Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common, often debilitating disorder characterized by the presence of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive thoughts or images which are experienced as intrusive and unwanted; they cause marked anxiety and distress. Compulsions (also known as rituals) are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that individuals with OCD perform in an attempt to decrease their anxiety. Patients tend to hide their symptoms due to shame; the amount of time between onset of symptoms and appropriate treatment is often many years. The disorder likely results from several etiological variables; functional imaging studies have consistently shown hyperactivity in the orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, thalamus, and striatum. The mainstays of treatment include cognitive-behavioral therapy in the form of exposure and response prevention (ERP) and serotonin reuptake inhibiting medications. Several pharmacological augmentation strategies exist for treatment-resistant OCD, with addition of antipsychotics being most commonly employed. Radio and neurosurgical procedures, including gamma knife radiation and deep brain stimulation, are reserved for severe, treatment-refractory disease that has not responded to multiple treatments, and some patients may benefit from transcranial magnetic stimulation.
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