Mental Health

What Does It Really Mean to Have OCD?

In recent years, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) seems to have become the psychological equivalent of gluten sensitivity, a condition that people claim they have – a claim made flippantly without a doctor’s diagnoses, and most likely false. Just because a messy desk annoys you, or if the thought of germs grosses you out a little more than normal, it doesn’t mean you have OCD.

In fact, only about 2% of the US population actually suffer from the condition. And, if you didn’t develop any symptoms after young adulthood, you’ll probably never develop OCD.

Here are some of the symptoms to look out for to determine if you really do have OCD or not.

1. Feeling an uncontrollable urge to perform certain rituals

When you have OCD, it can seem like you’re spending every second of the day trying to control a perpetual sense of anxiety. So you develop rituals like checking the door five times to make sure it’s locked properly before leaving for work, for example. If someone were to drag you away from the door before you’ve checked for the fifth time, that sense of anxiety would threaten to rise to overwhelming levels and you’d be convinced that a burglar will break in, rob you of everything you own and will be waiting to kill you when you step through the door.

So rituals rule your life. You feel like you must complete those rituals in order for you to be safe and for life to go on smoothly.

2. Bargaining with fear

“If I wash my hands one more time, I can finally stop thinking about germs.” Bargaining with yourself like this is a strong indicator of OCD. The horrible thing is that OCD will never fulfill its end of the bargain. Your mind may be calm after washing your hands for the xth time, but you’ll soon feel the urge to wash your hands again. The more you bargain, the more you’ll associate your fear and anxiety with the ritual. You’ll convince yourself that the ritual will be what saves you and therefore perpetuate the cycle.

3. Very hard to be reassured

There is nothing anyone can say that will calm you down. Your favorite phrase is “Yes, but.” “Yes, my last four visits to the doctor say everything is normal, but how do you know if it wasn’t a misdiagnosis?” Absolute certainty is almost always impossible, so nothing will reassure you. And as long as there is a slight possibility of your worst-case scenario, your anxious thoughts will continue to spin.

4. Consumed with anxiety

Houses do burn down, germs can kill you, and thieves can randomly break into homes. Life is filled with anxieties that can trigger OCD, but if you can live with the dangers of everyday life even if you feel uncomfortable sometimes, you likely don’t have OCD. But if anxiety consumes you and disrupts your life to a significant degree, then you may want to check in with a psychologist.

Remember, the “D” in OCD stands for “disorder,” so it’s only when your life becomes “disordered” that you should consider seeking a professional opinion. OCD can be treated with medications and/or psychotherapy, so if you are one of the few who suffers from OCD, don’t be afraid to look for help.

Kaitlyn L.

Kaitlyn L.

Kaitlyn is a blogger and professional writer. While specializing in health and relationship topics, she also writes articles on a variety of topics, including culture, food, technology, and politics. Her written work can be found on pilcrowmagazine.com and newbiechef.wordpress.com.
  • I have some ‘rituals’ that I do myself, such as:
    1) Stacking Dominoes – I stack them up, in order and neatly aligned. Once finished, I take them all back down, one by one…because it frustrates me to see a mess on a surface and it drives me nuts.
    2) Stationary Alignment – Everything has to be straight and aligned. Colours have to be placed from lights to darks, pencils have to be sharpened to the same height and notebooks have to be in size order. I can’t focus otherwise and my mind will be disrupted woth thoughts of organising them.
    3) Clothes Arrangement – All clothes must be colour coordinated and placed in appropriate sections – hoodies, tops, sweaters, dresses etc. I will go mad otherwise.

    Now, I haven’t clinically been diagnosed with OCD, however, I should probably see to it, because the above examples often take up most of my day if not catered to and can become serious problems.

    • Dee Warner

      Diagnostically speaking, the ritualistic behaviour is an end stage manifestation. OCD runs much deeper than these behaviours. It is vital that you seek input if any behaviour OR repetitive thought pattern overtakes.

      Diagnosis and mapped care from your primary physician or an associate thereof is vital.