While researchers believe obsessive-compulsive disorder has a basis in neurochemical abnormalities, the way symptoms present is often determined by environmental factors, as is the severity of symptoms. Researchers who study the way the environment shapes brain development believe behavioral conditioning might play a part in an individual’s development of compulsions and obsessions. For example, if someone is afraid of germs, they might obsessively wash their hands to relieve the anxiety about germs. Some cognitive behavioral researchers believe the misinterpretation of intrusive thought leads to compulsions and obsessions. Intrusive thoughts happen to everyone. They may involve thoughts about perpetuating harmful behaviors or doing things that frighten the individual. In a neurotypical person, these thoughts can be put aside, but OCD patients become fixated on them. An individual can have dysfunctional beliefs about themselves shaped by their environment. One common belief is an individual can cause or prevent negative outcomes by following their compulsions. Another is the idea having a thought is the same as actually acting upon the thought.
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