Nature versus nurture: it’s a topic psychologists have debated for years. Why do some people have mental health conditions while others do not? Is it something in their genes, or could it be the environment they were brought up in?
New research findings from the University of Chicago shed some light on the origins of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Tourette’s Syndrome, two conditions which tend to affect younger populations (i.e, those under age 18).
OCD is a mental health condition which is characterized by intense anxiety. Obsessive thoughts (usually about highly negative things) basically take over a person’s mind, making him or her feel constantly worried and overwhelmed. People who have OCD often worry about germs, contamination, illness, death and their loved ones coming to harm.
To ease some of the anxiety caused by the obsessive thoughts, people with OCD develop compulsions. Compulsions are repetitive actions that usually don’t have a purpose except to ease the person’s anxiety. People who have OCD feel that if they perform the compulsive “rituals” (such as washing their hands over and over again or counting to a certain number they consider lucky), they can stave off the obsessive thoughts and unpleasant imaginings. Logically, people with OCD realize that their fears are probably unfounded and that obeying their compulsions does not actually help them. However, they feel almost powerless to stop.
If you want to read about the genetic findings related to OCD and Tourette’s, click the link below.