Obsessive Compulsive Disorders 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorders are actually a spectrum of disorders generally exhibited when one cannot get a particular thought out of their conscience mind.  The person may think that he/she is contaminated, or that something horrible will befall someone they love.  They may worry that they will utter something blasphemous.  These are all examples of one of the most misunderstood disorders in the field of neuroscience, called "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder".  OCD occurs from early childhood all the way throughout the life span.  

Other examples include people who feel convinced that there is something about their body that looks misshapen or ugly.  They may look endlessly in mirrors and ask others of they notice the 'defect'.  These people may even go so far as to avoid going out, certain that others will notice their defect.  If a person has an obsession about a certain area of feature of their body, this is known as "Body Dysmorphic Disorder".

Behavior Example

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder has more symptoms than just about any other diagnosis. From the better known symptoms such as those seen in the movie, "As Good as it Gets" with Jack Nicholson, where hand washing and certain rituals were present, to the lesser known symptoms such as "hoarding", stuck thoughts, and many believe that even anorexia may be a symptom on this wide and unusual spectrum.  Clearly, one of the more disturbing for some is the "distress of perceived ugliness", known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

The following is an excerpt regarding a well-known physician/author in the field of BDD.  The link to this book can be found under the Anxiety/OCD/BDD Resources link.  

When do normal concerns about one's appearance become an obsession?

THE BROKEN MIRROR: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Revised and Expanded Edition
By Katharine A. Phillips, M.D.

"Millions of people have a secret obsession. They're obsessed with how they look, with a perceived flaw in their appearance. They worry that their nose is too big, their breasts are too small, their skin is blemished, their hair is thinning-- any body part can be the focus of this obsession. It's easy for us to discount these concerns. How can she worry so much about her looks when she's so pretty? Why is he so upset about his hair--it looks fine! But people with these body obsessions suffer greatly, some are severely tormented, some consider suicide. 

The concerns of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) echo normal concerns but are more extreme. People who have BDD not only dislike some aspect of how they look, they're preoccupied with it. They worry too much. They'd like to worry less but they can't. Many say they're obsessed.--from The Broken Mirror

In this revised and expanded edition of The Broken Mirror, Dr. Katharine Phillips draws on years of scientific research, clinical practice and detailed interviews with patients to bring readers an updated and expanded book on this troubling and sometimes debilitating disorder. Many sufferers function well, but remain secretly obsessed by their "hideous acne" or "horrible nose," sneaking constant peeks at a pocket mirror, or spending hours redoing makeup. BDD afflicts millions of people. It isn't an uncommon disorder, simply a hidden one, since sufferers are often embarrassed to tell even their closest friends about their concerns; one woman, after fifty years of marriage, still kept her appearance worries a secret from her husband. This revised and expanded edition of The Broken Mirror provides updated information from recent research that sheds new light on this serious illness.

Besides the fascinating story of the disorder itself, The Broken Mirror is also a lifesaving handbook for sufferers, their families, and their doctors. Left untreated, the torment of BDD can lead to hospitalization and sometimes suicide. With treatment, many sufferers are able to lead normal lives. Phillips provides a quick self-assessment questionnaire, helping readers distinguish between normal appearance concerns and the obsession of BDD to determine whether they or someone they know have BDD. She includes common clues to BDD's such as frequent mirror checking, covering up with clothing, and excessive exercise. Four new chapters on treatment contain updated information and recommendations on how to effectively treat BD--as well as frequently obtained treatments that should be avoided. A revised chapter offers helpful advice and reassurance for friends and families of BDD sufferers.

The revised and expanded edition of The Broken Mirror is the most comprehensive book on BDD and is written by the leading expert on this disorder. It is essential reading for psychiatrists, other mental health professionals, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons; for the friends and family concerned about a loved one who won't believe their reassurance; and for the millions who suffer from BDD in silence and secrecy.


Katharine A. Phillips, M.D. is Director of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Body Image Program at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, and Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown Medical School. She is internationally known for her pioneering research and clinical work on BDD


OCD, as it is known, occurs frequently with other disorders, making it even more difficult to understand.  Those with Tourette 's syndrome- the disorder with involuntary motor movements and sometimes involuntary vocal sounds- have three times the likelihood of having OCD than the general population.  Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (such as Autism or Asperger's Syndrome) also have a greatly increased likelihood of having symptoms consistent with OCD.  For too many years, the shame and embarrassment of this category kept many from seeking and receiving treatment.  The good news is that available treatments including the use of newer classes of medications and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy have greatly increased the likelihood that significant improvement can be made.

The Obsessive Brain

OCD is not a mental disorder, it is a genetically transmitted brain disorder that responds to several types of treatment.  No longer should people with these symptoms that cause terrible anxiety, phobias, panic and drastically altered lives have to hide when responsible treatment is readily available.  If you or your loved ones seem to have an "obsessive brain", you should urge them to seek professional assistance.


Too often individuals with behavioral disorders are treated by those that lack the expertise and experience to properly diagnose and treat behavioral disorders.  If you suspect that you or a loved one are affected by "stuck thoughts" or an "obsessive brain", contact a qualified behavioral healthcare professlonal

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