Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Obsessive-compulsive Disorder is generally defined or characterized by an overwhelming desire to perform a specific act in an almost ritualistic manner, or perhaps for a set amount of time or number of repetitions, usually caused by a fear of something negative happening if the ritual is not performed. Examples of obsessive-compulsive behavior include counting the number of place settings at a table and utensils 3 times every time the table is set, or feeling an overwhelming need to throw salt over one’s shoulder any time the person spills salt on a table, despite doing so is only a superstition, the uncontrollable need to do it every time it happens could be classified as obsessive-compulsive. Obsessions are defined as thoughts, images, or urges which are upsetting and intrude, unwanted, into the person's thought or stream of consciousness. (Taylor, Abramowitz, & McKay, n.d., p. 11). Compulsion is defined as repeated, deliberate behaviors or physical or mental acts that the person feels required to perform, usually with a desire to resist (Taylor et al., p. 11). Compulsions are often done due to an obsession and are performed to avoid a fear or distress alternatively they may be part of a set pattern, such as throwing salt over one’s shoulder, as mentioned above.
Treatment Methods Used for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Many ideas as to the cause and treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder have been developed, including classical and operant conditioning, where the fear is caused by classical conditioning from an event in the person’s past and is repeated until the compulsion to resolve the fear is part of the person’s behavior, thus becoming operant conditioning. The obsession becomes a negative re-enforcement of the condition, prompting the compulsion to resolve it. The classical treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder has been controlled exposure to the source of the fear, while delaying or avoiding the compulsion, also called exposure and response prevention. With this approach, the person faces the object of his or her fear, or obsession, while avoiding the compulsive reaction. For example, in the case of the person throwing salt over his or her shoulder whenever salt is spilled, they would spill the salt, while avoiding the urge to throw some over his or her shoulder afterward. The cognitive-behavioral model of psychology explains the cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder as a deficit in cognitive inhibition (a lowered ability to inhibit responses) and possibly in information processing and or reasoning processes. The cognitive-behavioral model suggests that the person’s belief in the fear causes the obsession and thereby the compulsion, therefore, the treatment is to confront the belief directly thus removing the fear and the obsession, which, in turn, causes the compulsion to be removed, rather than focusing on the object of the fear and the corresponding response to it, as the classical method does. One psychotherapeutic approach to obsessive-compulsive