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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): What’s Really Going On In Your Brain
Imagine being powerless over incessant, irrational thoughts and behaviors that seem completely outside of one’s sphere of control. Whether the lack of control centers around someone who washes their hands fifty or more times a day to avoid contamination, or someone who can’t sleep no matter how hard they try because they have to keep re-checking their hair to make sure it’s are locked. It can also be a person who is essentially imprisoned in their room because they cannot leave unless everything is in the exact order or place it is supposed to be.
These are just a few of the many examples of adversity faced by someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or more commonly known as OCD. The manifestations of this disorder are easily recognizable as inappropriate and quite strange, however, no one really knows why a person is acting in this way. If society had a more complete understanding, it could help people who are close to people with OCD cope, and it would also help remove the shame that a person with this disorder feels because of the thoughts, their unconventional urges and behaviors.
To treat OCD biologically, it all has to start with the brain. The brain itself is an organ of incredible complexity. It consists of many nerve networks intended to transmit chemical messages from different parts of the body to specific areas of the brain to be processed, and then leave with another nerve impulse sent through the postsynaptic neuron to produce thoughts, feelings, and behavior. . This process is not as simple as it sounds since each neuron, or brain cell, is not connected to each other; there is a junction known as a synapse between each of the neuron cells. Therefore, neurons must send messages using neurotransmitters that leave the presynaptic neuron and accumulate in the postsynaptic neuron by joining their nerve processes called dendrites. Once there are enough of these neurotransmitters, the electrical charge across the cell is large enough to initiate an action potential, or send a large charge into the cell body. The action potential then passes through the cell body and into the axon, which is the nerve process that carries the impulse to the terminal side of the neuron, and the whole process begins again with each neuron until it reaches its final destination. It’s very similar to how a light switch works. Nerve impulses, or electrical currents of light, are pushed to different areas of the body, while the light switch distributes its light energy among different bulbs within the vicinity.
All of this becomes vitally important when discussing the Cortico-Striato-Thalamo-Cortical or CSTC circuits. Parts of this system implicated in OCD research are the orbital frontal cortex, striatum, and thalamus. Although there are two separate branches, OCD is primarily concerned with the second branch called the cortico-striato-thalamic branch. Like a fast-paced highway, the striatum can either propagate nerve impulses with a green light that keeps traffic flowing, causing the thalamus to fire an action potential, or it can inhibit the production of an action potential when the traffic signal becomes red to stop traffic. The tasks of this system include filtering external inputs, providing refined output, and mediating stereotypical rule-based processes without requiring conscious resource allocation.
Putting this into context in a person with OCD, the cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical circuit is overfunctioning. In some cases disturbed thoughts, concerns or doubts, which originate in the orbital frontal cortex, in normal brain functioning travel to the striatum; since there, these extraneous thoughts can be stopped through the action of the caudate nucleus. However, in the case of a brain with obsessive-compulsive disorder, this part of the striatum is hypothesized to be deficient. Thus, these unnecessary thoughts turn into obsessions, as the line of thought continues and overwhelms the system like a traffic signal always stuck on green. In an attempt to extinguish the anxiety and fear that is caused, the person acts on the urges by performing the action that they perceive as avoiding a particular trigger. There are as many avoidance behaviors as there are people and they are all unique to the person and can change due to life circumstances at any time.
Another theory on the effect of children who have certain genetic markers, such as high levels of D8/17 antibodies, and at some point have come down with a case of streptococcal infection. When their bodies try to fight the disease in an autoimmune response, a case of molecular mimicry occurs. In this phenomenon, antistreptococcal antibodies cross-react with basal ganglia proteins, causing an inflammatory response to [produce] symptoms of Sydenham’s chorea. Antibodies are essentially unable to distinguish between brain and streptococcal cells. This course of the disease can eventually cause some children to become obsessive-compulsive based on the location of inflammation and brain cell damage. The US National Institute of Mental Health has termed this “Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections” respectively (PANDAS).
Duke University researchers using mice may have unraveled yet another piece of the overall puzzle. Using genetically modified mice, they eliminated a specific gene known as SAPAP3 which codes for a particular protein. Without this protein, the mice began to exhibit OCD-like behavior. They were grooming and scratching themselves to the point where they were bald in some areas and had rubbed off their raw skin. Additionally, the researchers observed a certain type of energy that they claimed was a symptom of anxiety as can be seen in individuals with OCD. As they did with people with OCD, they gave rats SSRIs and saw improvement in their behaviors. To a large extent, researchers have been baffled by this disease because they have not been able to replicate it in any animal model. For this reason, this has made many within the medical community excited about the possibilities of solving the psychological phenomenon that afflicts people from all over the world in a similar way.
After discussing the possible theories attributed to the disorder, it is also important to talk about the science behind the treatment of the disorder. The most common treatment from a biological point of view is the prescription of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). As the name implies, this line of medications keeps serotonin within the synaptic cleft instead of being reabsorbed back into the neuron from which it is released. Thus, serotonin molecules have a greater probability of joining the dendrite of another neuron and initiating an action potential. This is important because “serotonin is known to be one of the chemical messengers in the pathway between the basal ganglia and the frontal cortex.” Increasing nerve impulses throughout this part of the brain has been clinically shown to moderate the effect of OCD in an individual. Common SSRIs that the FDA approves for the treatment of OCD are Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft, Paxil, and Anafranil.
All in all, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a very complicated and difficult disorder to treat. When most people won’t think about something, people with OCD can spend hours thinking about it. OCD spans across a range of issues. Thought patterns can be about washing and cleanliness, hoarding, control, order and symmetry, scrupulousness and aggression. The behaviors exhibited by individuals with OCD are not only difficult for society to understand, but the disorder has baffled even professionals. Medical researchers are beginning to try to unlock the secrets of this disorder parts at a time. Then it follows that great breakthroughs are on the horizon, because now there are only medications and cognitive behavioral therapies that make progress up to a certain point, but even then there is always the risk of relapse.
Furthermore, OCD sufferers must go through the search just to find a medication or therapy concept that relieves a mere fraction of the pain and suffering imposed upon them along with the destruction it can bring to their lives, making them made research advances a daunting task for him. undertaken. However, as the old saying goes “knowledge is power;” meaning that the more people who open doors to discuss OCD without judgment and spend time researching it, the more likely society will continue to build on the knowledge it has found to bring a hopeful outlook to it the future of people everywhere who must contend with it. this terrible cruel disorder.
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