Anxiety Home > Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

While the causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder are still not fully understood, there is evidence that abnormal functioning of the brain's circuitry may be one of the potential factors. In addition, PET scans show that both behavioral therapy and medication produce changes in the brain in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Family problems or attitudes learned in childhood do not lead to the condition.

Do Scientists Know What Causes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

The exact causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are currently unknown and are the subject of intense scientific investigation.

Understanding the Brain and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

There is growing evidence that obsessive-compulsive disorder represents abnormal functioning of brain circuitry, probably involving a part of the brain called the striatum.
Brain imaging studies using a technique called positron emission tomography (PET) have compared people with and without obsessive-compulsive disorder. Those with the condition have patterns of brain activity that differ from people with other mental illnesses or from people with no mental illness at all.
In addition, PET scans show that in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, both behavioral therapy and medication produce changes in the striatum. This is graphic evidence that both psychotherapy and medication affect the brain.

Can Family Connections Cause Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not caused by family problems or by attitudes learned in childhood, such as an inordinate emphasis on cleanliness or a belief that certain thoughts are dangerous or unacceptable.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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