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Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders
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What Causes Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders?

Matthew D. Jacofsky, Psy.D., Melanie T. Santos, Psy.D., Sony Khemlani-Patel, Ph.D. & Fugen Neziroglu, Ph.D. of the Bio Behavioral Institute, edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

man with question mark above headAt this point you may be wondering, "What causes these disorders to occur in the first place?" You might also be wondering, "Why do these folks keep doing these things (hoarding, compulsions, etc.) even though it's causing problems?" These are very reasonable and sensible questions that we will attempt to answer in this section. To accomplish this task, we find it helpful to apply a commonly used model of mental disorders called the biopsychosocial model.

The biopsychosocial model proposes there are multiple, and inter-related causes of mental disorders (including OCRDs). The biopsychosocial model categorizes these many causes into three main groups:

1. biological causes;
2. psychological causes; and,
3. sociocultural causes (environment).

The biological causes include factors such as genetic vulnerabilities, as well as neural (brain) abnormalities. Psychological vulnerabilities result from early life experiences such as trauma, as well as certain dysfunctional beliefs that may develop over time. The sociocultural causes refer to things we learn by observing others, as well as cultural norms and standards of behavior.

Thus, it becomes clear that the development of an OCRD is quite complex and has multiple origins. Fortunately, recovery from these disorders isn't nearly so complex. In other words, although our biology and prior life experiences contribute to the development of these disorders, an understanding of these influences is not a necessary condition for recovery. We discuss the treatment of these disorders in another section.