Learning About OCD

With a client who has severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; OCD and may face charges because of conduct associated with this, I had to take crash course to learn about it. OCD is the fourth most common mental disorder in the United States and is diagnosed nearly as often as the common ailments such as asthma and diabetes. In the US, it is thought that one in 50 adults has OCD. The phrase, OCD is often used to describe someone who is meticulous, perfectionistic, absorbed in a cause, or otherwise fixated on something or someone.

Behavioral scientists generally agree that both psychological and biological factors play a role in causing the disorder, although they differ in their degree of emphasis n these factors. OCD has been linked to abnormalities with the chemical serotonin that is thought to regulate stress and anxiety in our brains. However, it is not proven if it is the cause of OCD or the result of having OCD. In addition, recent research points to a possible genetic mutation that could help explain the disorder. Recent research, conducted at Detroit Children's Hospital, was able to identify OCD by an MIR. There is also some suggestion that OCD may result from early childhood diseases such as Rubella or Streptococcal infections. What is known, however, is that we are just beginning to understand OCD there is a lot to learn if we are to effectively treat it.

In my client's case, his OCD was manifested by hoarding. Normally, hoarding only effects the individual, but in this case, my client hoarded animals, specifically Chihuahuas. Besides a house that was filled top to bottom with so much stuff it took eight workers more than a week to clean it out, he also had over one-hundred live Chihuahuas and over one-hundred and fifty that had died and were stored in basement freezers. In addition, because the animals never left the house, there was feces and urine everywhere.

Although, there is no cure for OCD, there are ways of controlling the obsessions and stress associated with it. For instance, there is exposure and response prevention, that involves gradually learning to tolerate the anxiety associated with not performing the ritual behavior. In my client's case then, it would involve getting rid of certain things rather that saving them. For instance, my client has probably ten lawnmowers. While most don't work, he was thinking about fixing them and part of this therapy would be to throw one of them away each day. Over time, the stress of getting rid of the mowers would lessen. After the mowers, we could move on to televisions, of which my client had collected fifty or so.

There are also certain combinations of drugs which can be used to reduce the stress associated with the compulsion. Lastly there is psychosurgery which is considered the last resort when the patient does not respond to therapy or drugs.

As an attorney, the issue that I must consider is whether criminal charges will be leveled against my client and, if so, my response. For instance, is my client competent to stand trial? Is there criminal intent? And to what extent is my client responsible for behavior that is out of his control. Over the next few weeks these questions will begin to get answered, so stay tuned.