Is it Actually OCD?

by Andrea Blundell
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

You organise and clean when stressed, and you tend to be a perfectionist. “You are so OCD,” people tease. But are you?

What is OCD?

OCD is short for “obsessive compulsive disorder”. And the name says it all.

We all know what obsession means. We can’t stop thinking about something, an unwanted thought, idea, image or impulse.

But what about a compulsion? This is something we can’t resist doing.

So with OCD, our obsessive thoughts are so strong they drive us to compulsive behaviours, that we often perform in a ritualistic way.

Why would I have obsessive compulsive disorder?

OCD is actually a way of coping. You are using behaviours to feel a sense of relief in the face of your overwhelming thoughts.

For example, if you are convinced that the world is dangerous, and each time you leave the house you have anxious thoughts about all the things that can go wrong? Tapping everything you pass two times with your finger can be your way of feeling in control and soothing yourself.

Am I stressed, or do I actually have OCD?

Most of us at some point get obsessive thoughts that are upsetting, or act compulsively - say, rearranging our wardrobe after a breakup as we think about all the terrible things we could do to take revenge.

This is just a response to stress.

Some of us might even have strange behaviours that develop in the face of challenges. For example, you might be known for only eating orange foods if you are upset.

But if these behaviours happen sporadically and the rest of the time you’re fine? And if it’s something strange, but which doesn’t really affect your life negatively? It could be that you have a obsessive compulsive personality trait.

OCD is not just a phase or intermittent. And as with any disorder, it becomes one because it is so consistent and overwhelming, and goes on for so long, that it diminishes your quality of life.

Your anxiety is so big, and your need to act compulsively to control it so strong, you start to make choices in order to accommodate your rituals, such a not going places where you can’t find a sink to wash your hands.

Examples of OCD Obsessions

It could look like a fear of:

  • losing control (you might hurt someone, or say something bad)
  • being contaminated (germs, bodily fluids, environmental toxins)
  • getting sick (cancer)
  • upsetting God
  • losing or forgetting things
  • not being perfect or getting things wrong
  • making something terrible happen
  • unwanted sexual thoughts.

Examples of OCD compulsions

We all can have our routines we like to stick to. But if you have OCD, these behaviours are not things you want to be doing, but things you can’t stop doing.

This can include compulsive:

  • hygiene (handwashing, showering, grooming)
  • cleaning
  • arranging/ordering
  • repeating of things a set number of times
  • counting
  • checking and rechecking things.

It can also look like having certain 'good' numbers you have to do everything by, and avoiding certain things.

OCD vs Anxiety Disorder

Both involve irrational thoughts and feelings of fear, distress, and being out of control. And people with OCD actually have extreme anxiety.

To confuse matters more, if you have anxiety disorder, you can also sometimes act compulsively. For example, if you are very anxious about your upcoming wedding, you can check and recheck the table plan.

But then the wedding happens, and you move on to some other worry. If you have OCD, your ritualistic behaviour continues, no matter what changes in your life.

What do I do if I think I have OCD?

OCD rarely just goes away. It does, however, respond well to treatment.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in particular is recommended for obsessive compulsive disorder. It helps you gain control of your thoughts and make them more balanced.

If your OCD makes it hard for you to leave the house, don't worry. You can do online therapy from home.

Want a professional opinion on your obsessive compulsive behaviour? Use our easy booking tool to find a therapist that suits you, and get the clarity and support you deserve.

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