Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is more than just a habit, pet peeve, quirk or sign of perfectionism. Everyone has little idiosyncrasies and preferences. OCD goes way beyond that. People with OCD have excessive thoughts and behaviors that interfere with their daily functioning, which makes it an actual disorder. So often I hear people loosely throw around the term OCD, and say things like, “I’m a little OCD,” or “I’m OCD about x, y and z.” You can’t “be a little OCD” or “be OCD” about only a few select things. It doesn’t work that way. OCD often affects every aspect of your life.
2. It’s not just about neatness.
So often when people hear the OCD, they picture someone habitually washing their hands and cleaning. There is much more to OCD than that. OCD is different for each person who has it. Sometimes it may include hand washing or cleaning, but it can also include having disturbing and intrusive thoughts, extreme doubt, counting, repeating tasks until it feels “just right,” touching objects, rearranging objects, saying words and phrases or doing rituals to prevent something “bad” from happening. This is just a short list.
3. It’s not a choice.
I have a real disorder beyond my control. I don’t choose to have obsessive thoughts, and I don’t choose to do my compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts that play over and over again that you just can’t seem to get out of your head. Compulsions are behaviors you do in an effort to try to neutralize or negate the obsessions. They are things I feel I must do. It’s like having an itch you just have to scratch. I don’t want to have intrusive thoughts or perform my rituals, and I don’t enjoy them. OCD can be debilitating. It is agonizing to constantly be plagued with disturbing thoughts, and to lose precious time due to performing compulsions.
Fortunately, with proper treatment, it doesn’t have to be agonizing. There’s no “cure,” and it’s not always going to be easy. However with proper treatment, it is possible to function and lead a fulfilling life with OCD. Educate yourself about OCD, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you think you may be struggling with it.