Repeatedly washing one's hands, checking the stove over and over, making sure windows and doors are locked, following a precise order when carrying out everyday chores: these are the more common rituals performed by people afflicted by obsessions. When they reach a pathological threshold, obsessions can cause strong discomfort, anxiety, and mood disorders. Have such fixations accompanied humankind over its entire evolutionary history? Whence do they arise? Are there any drugs that are effective in curing obsessions or at least providing substantial relief from them?
Ezio Sanavio teaches Clinical Psychology at the University of Padua.