Warning Signs You or a Loved One Has OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD, more specifically) has entered our language to jokingly refer to someone who likes a little bit of organization. In reality, clinical OCD is no laughing matter as the anxiety disorder can hijack your life, imprisoning you in a world of uncontrollable compulsions and/or obsessions.

To help you recognize the signs of OCD, Dr. Diana Ghelber and our team here at the Institute for Advanced Psychiatry gathered together some of the more common warning flags.

Understanding OCD

To better recognize the warning signs of OCD, it’s helpful to understand how this anxiety disorder interferes with someone’s thoughts and actions.

OCD is defined as a condition in which a person has uncontrollable, reccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that they repeat over and over. OCD often creates a never-ending cycle in which a person has a thought that creates anxiety. In order to relieve this anxiety, they engage in a behavior in an attempt to put an end to the obsession.

Unfortunately, the relief the behavior brings is usually temporary and the obsession returns in short order, kicking the cycle back into gear.

Excessive hand washing

To illustrate what occurs when a person has OCD, let’s use one of the more common ways that people act out their OCD (which is especially relevant given the current health care crisis) — fear of germs and handwashing. 

While we should all be mindful of germs and cleanliness, someone with OCD may obsess over contamination, and, to relieve the anxiety this fear brings on, they wash their hands, a lot. This type of behavior is often ritualized, and the person may go through the obsession-compulsion cycle we outlined above over and over and wash their hands until they’re raw.


Double-checking something is always good practice, but someone with OCD goes far beyond taking a second look. OCD can drive a person to obsessively confirm things like whether the door is locked or the oven is turned off dozens of times before they’re satisfied, and they are rarely satisfied. The person may drive away, only to return back home to check, once again, that there’s no danger.


Hoarding is another sign of OCD as the person has a fear of throwing things away. Unlike a hoarding disorder in which a person finds pleasure in the objects around them, hoarding as a part of OCD isn’t pleasure-driven. This behavior is more driven by fear that something bad will happen if the object is discarded.

Counting and arranging

Some people with OCD are very particular about order and symmetry. Whether arranging objects by size, color, number, or any other characteristic, this compulsion can be overwhelming, and when things aren’t “just right,” crippling anxiety can set in.

Being perfect

Another hallmark of OCD is the obsessive belief that if everything isn’t done perfectly, that person will be punished or something awful will happen.

Again, many of us exhibit certain degrees of OCD-like behaviors from time to time, but when these thoughts and behaviors interfere with our ability to function normally or to live in peace, it's time to get help. If you suspect you or a loved one may have OCD, please contact one of our two locations in Granbury or Fort Worth, Texas.

You Might Also Enjoy...

When You Should Get Help for Your Anxiety

Most everyone frets from time to time, but clinical anxiety is an entirely different matter. Here, we take a look at when anxiety goes far beyond normal fears and worries and when it can benefit from professional help.

How Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Health

We all know how important exercise is for physical health, but did you know that your brain and mental health can also benefit greatly? Here’s a look at the many ways in which exercise supports great mental health.

3 Things Most Don't Know About Bipolar Disorder

When it comes to bipolar disorder, there’s a fair amount of misinformation out there, especially if you consider that the word “bipolar" has become an everyday adjective. Here, we shed some much needed light on this serious issue.

Can Botox® Really Treat Depression?

If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from depression, you want to explore every treatment avenue available to you. Believe it or not, the cosmetic procedure Botox® may be one such avenue.

3 Encouraging Facts About PTSD

When you’re in the throes of post-traumatic stress syndrome, the world may feel uncertain, lonely, and hopeless. We want to provide you with some hope, starting with three encouraging facts about the condition.