Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
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Scientific Breakthroughs & Caregiver Tips
What Causes OCD?
Doctors and researchers have not yet determined exactly what causes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but they have identified several risk factors that increase the likelihood that an individual will develop the disorder.
- Genetic Predisposition. Studies of families in which OCD is present, including studies of identical twins, seem to suggest that there may be a genetic component that is a risk factor for the disorder. Having a parent, sibling, or child who has been diagnosed with OCD increases the chance that you will also be diagnosed with the disorder. Researchers have made some progress in identifying the genes that may play a role in the development of OCD, but more research is necessary to determine the precise genetic connections.
- Neurological Causes. Some brain imaging research has noted differences in parts of the brain structure, including the frontal cortex and subcortical structures, between people who have OCD and those who don’t. How these differences may play a role in the development of the disorder, however, is not yet understood.
- Environmental Factors. Symptoms of OCD often first occur before adulthood, and they often seem to be triggered by stress. Research has shown a connection between a history of physical or sexual abuse in childhood and the development of OCD, and other childhood traumas may also be a risk factor for the development of the disorder.
- Bacterial Infections. Some children develop OCD, or symptoms consistent with OCD, after having had a streptococcal infection.
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