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.
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.
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.
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.
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.