Imbalanced Learning and Punishment Can Be Cause Of OCD: Study
In a study conducted by the scientists of Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Advanced Telecommunication Research Institute International and Tamagawa University it was revealed that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) develops as a result of imbalanced learning between reinforcement and punishment. The study further demonstrates how asymmetric brain calculations link current results to past experiences that in turn lead to disordered behaviour.
About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD:
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears also known as “obsessions” that lead one to carry out repetitive behaviours better known as “compulsions”. The occurrence of obsessions and compulsions is so often that it interferes with a person’s daily activities and functioning and causes severe distress. One is driven to perform the compulsive acts in order to get relief from the disturbing obsessive thoughts, but instead of finding peace after carrying out the task, it may further escalate into a ritualistic behaviour bringing in more anxiety and distress. The repetitive behaviours can only temporarily reduce your anxiety and not fix your problem. The person in the grasp of OCD seldom realizes that his obsessions or compulsions are excessive and unreasonable and these unproductive acts may consume most of his time thereby hampering his routine tasks. This is how one falls prey to the vicious cycle of OCD!
In OCD, Obsessions specifically mean disturbing thoughts or mental imagery and are more or less situated in the mind thus differing from Compulsions which actually are the repetitive and ritualistic behaviours that are followed in order to get rid of the anxiety-causing thoughts. Obsessions prove to be a trigger for compulsions.
Obsessions=> thoughts that exist only in the mind and cannot be seen
Compulsions=> are behaviours occurring as a result of obsessive thoughts and that can be seen
Common themes of obsessive thoughts:
1. Fear of contamination: An OCD patient will have the fear of falling sick due to germs, dirt, viruses and other poisonous items. In this case, they will prefer and abstain from touching anything thinking “This place is contaminated and If I touch anything, I will fall sick.”
2. Thinking of dangers: Fear of harming yourself and others may strike people with OCD time and again and the thought “What if I intentionally bump into another car while driving?” for example will cross their mind.
3. Needing things to be orderly: Such people may have a constant urge to maintain symmetry and orderliness for the purpose of achieving satisfaction. They may place certain things in a particular direction just because it “feels right” to them.
4. Obsessions about taboo behaviours: These individuals may fear displaying their worrisome and socially unacceptable sexual desires which according to them would call for shame and guilt.
5. Fear of impulsivity: Persons with OCD often engage in worrying about bringing out their impulsive side as they fear they may offend someone. They also keep from having an outburst or using obscene language in front of others.
Common themes of compulsive behaviours:
1. Cleaning compulsions: Repetitive hand washing, excessive cleaning and other hygiene rituals are followed a number of times in a day. Individuals with OCD may use several hours cleaning floors, furniture, washing clothes, and utensils so much so that it hinders them from undertaking any other work or activity.
2. Arranging things: Spending most of your time arranging things in an orderly fashion to achieve perfectionism, and simply placing things the way they are “supposed” to be shown how a patient dealing with OCD is stuck in an uncontrollable urge to perform tasks.
3. Checking: Constantly rechecking on locked doors and windows, again and again making sure you have switched off appliances while leaving the house, rereading your piece of work to assure yourself that you didn’t make any blunder are some things people living with OCD spend hours doing that, in turn, causes delays.
4. Repetitive tasks: Touching/ repeating something a set number of times like stepping on every second step while climbing stairs and starting from the beginning in case you miss one is another repetitive action that people with OCD undertake in an attempt to avoid disturbing thoughts.
Behavioural tics: Habitual behaviours like blinking, twitching, and making body movements a certain number of times to feel at ease is something OCD patients engage into to achieve comfort but instead get stuck in the cycle of compulsive actions.
Causes and risk factors of developing OCD:
1. Family history
2. Exposure to traumatic events or significant stress
4. Personality traits
6. Changes in brain chemistry
7. Observing others undertake certain repetitive behaviours
People with OCD are likely to experience some or the other mental illness too such as:
A) Anxiety disorders
C) Bipolar disorder
E) Substance abuse
Prevention and Treatment: Although there is no one way to prevent the development of OCD, early diagnosis and treatment may however keep OCD from worsening and let people better cope with routine activities.
(a) Psychotherapy like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and the like can help effectively deal with OCD patterns by allowing you to reframe negative thought patterns and behaviours.
(b) Medications could be prescribed by mental health practitioners in case of severity of the disorder that may ease your distress.
(c) Mindfulness-based cognitive therapies could also turn out to be beneficial as this approach involves learning mindfulness skills to overcome anxiety and distress.
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