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What Causes OCD?

Although recent advances in the research have pointed to compelling directions for identifying causes of OCD, we still do not know for sure what causes OCD. Numerous studies have pointed to both genetic and environmental causes of OCD. Twin studies have found that OCD is highly heritable. Identical twins have a higher concordance rate of OCD than fraternal twins. That means that in identical twins, who share the same DNA, if one twin has OCD, the other is significantly more likely to also have the disorder. This consistent finding suggests genes play a very significant role. It also suggests that genes are not the only factor, because there are many instances in which only one identical twin has OCD.

In addition to genetic factors, a number of non-genetic biological factors are associated as causes of OCD. For instance there is a significant association between birth abnormalities and diagnosis of OCD. Similarly, infants who undergo some kind of neurological trauma, such as head trauma or meningitis, are more likely to go on to develop OCD later in life.

It is likely that learning later in life can also cause OCD. This is evident in relatively research that shows an overwhelming majority of people regularly experience intrusive thoughts without any psychological disturbance. It is only those who go onto develop OCD who attempt to suppress or neutralize them. There is some research to suggest that this is a learned behavior, reinforced by thought patterns characterized by over-responsibility, and danger. Although these schemas are often associated with their own genetic etiologies, they are often learned early in childhood, through trauma, abuse and neglect, or from family members who modeled this style of thinking.

Although the science is not as far as we’d like it to be in identifying with certainty factors that may cause OCD, there are very effective treatments for the disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a clinically-proven treatment for OCD, with very high rates of effectiveness. At Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles, we specialize in anxiety disorder treatment. Call or email today for an appointment.