Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that causes obsessions – intrusive and recurrent thoughts, impulses, fears, or mental images, and compulsions – repetitive behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels driven to perform to counteract their obsessions.
Obsessions and compulsions can be very distressing and time-consuming, and if left untreated, they can severely impair daily functioning. If you think you may have OCD, it is advisable to seek professional help right away. A mental health professional can help assess your symptoms and provide a conclusive diagnosis and course of treatment.
Here are some possible signs that you may have OCD:
Obsessions and Compulsions
Obsessions can be about a wide range of topics, such as contamination, harm, perfectionism, or religious concerns. Some common examples of OCD obsessions include:
- Intrusive and persistent thoughts or images of doing something violent, aggressive, or inappropriate
- Uncontrollable worries about dirt or germs – often leading to repetitive behaviors such as excessive cleaning or hand washing
- Excessive fear of making mistakes or not doing something perfectly
- Uncontrollable worries about religious topics such as sinning, damnation, or retribution
As mentioned, compulsions are repetitive behaviors often performed in response to an obsession and are intended to prevent or neutralize the obsession. Some common OCD compulsions include:
- Compulsive counting or checking (i.e. counting steps or checking locks multiple times)
- Uncontrollable urges to hoard items that have no real value or use
- Repetitive behaviors such as handwashing, showering, or hair-pulling
- Checking and rechecking doors, appliances, or tasks to make sure they are “perfect”
In addition to obsessions and compulsions, other signs that you have OCD include:
- Excessive distress or anxiety when unable to perform a compulsion
- Problems with concentration and focus due to ruminating thoughts
- Avoidance of certain situations or objects that trigger obsessions or compulsions
- Significant interference with daily functioning due to time spent obsessing and/or performing compulsions
We all experience disturbing thoughts from time to time, and it’s a normal human instinct to want to double-check the stove occasionally to ensure it’s turned off correctly. But that does not necessarily mean you have OCD.
To be diagnosed with OCD, your obsessions and compulsions must be excessive and severe enough to interfere significantly with your daily functioning.
OCD Myths and Misconceptions
OCD is often misunderstood due to the prevalence of myths and misconceptions about it. Here are some common myths that should be debunked:
Myth 1: OCD is all about being clean and tidy
Fact: Although excessive cleaning and organizing can be part of OCD, this is not the defining characteristic of the disorder. OCD can manifest itself in a wide range of obsessions and compulsions, some of which have nothing to do with cleanliness or tidiness.
Myth 2: People with OCD can easily control their obsessions and compulsions
Fact: Many people with OCD feel powerless against their intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Although they may recognize that their obsessions or compulsions are irrational, they may not be able to control them.
Myth 3: OCD is just a quirk and doesn’t require treatment
Fact: OCD can be a very debilitating mental illness if left untreated. It can lead to impaired functioning and negatively impact the quality of life.
The Bottom Line
OCD is a complex mental disorder that can manifest in different ways for different people. If you have been diagnosed with OCD, there are proven treatments available to help manage symptoms and minimize their interference with daily life.