Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
OCD is one of the mental health disorders that tend to be highlighted in television shows and movies. However, you can’t believe everything that you see on TV. This may have you wondering what the truth is about OCD. This article will share some of the most common OCD tendencies and explore a few treatment options that can help.
What Is OCD?
OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In previous years, it was included as an anxiety disorder. However, in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is used when diagnosing mental health disorders, OCD was separated from anxiety disorders. It is now a part of Obsessive-compulsive and Related Disorders.
The disorder involves both Obsessions and Compulsions, just as the name indicates. Obsessions are thoughts that come into a person’s mind and make it difficult for them to think of other things. They can seem to take over. And compulsions are the behaviors that you do because of the Obsession.
A common example that many people are familiar with is hand washing. If someone who struggles with OCD has a fear of germs and getting sick, if they touch something, then they may start to think about the fact that they have germs on their hand. This thought will continue to grow and cause them to feel anxious until the point where they can’t handle it anymore, so they wash their hands.
The Obsession is the thought of germs and possibly getting sick. The compulsion is the physical washing of the hands.
The Cycle Of OCD
There is a cycle that those that have OCD experience. It begins with having obsessive thoughts or fears. You may try to ignore them, but they don’t seem to go away. Instead, they can feel like they’re beginning to grow. These thoughts and fears then lead to anxiety. When you try to ignore them, the anxiety increases.
It’s important to note here that anxiety is not the same thing as being “worried.” Anxiety can be persistent and impacts the way that you think and function.
Once anxiety kicks in, it leads to the person with OCD responding with compulsive behavior. This behavior is what then leads to temporary relief from that anxiety that was caused by the obsessive thought. Eventually, the cycle begins over again.
If we use the same example as earlier of handwashing, when the person washes their hands, they experience temporary relief from the Obsession. They know their hands are clean and don’t have to worry about getting sick from their touched germs. However, this may only last until they touch the next thing where the cycle continues again.
OCD Symptoms And OCD Tendencies
While there are many different behaviors and OCD tendencies, there are a few categories that they tend to fall into:
1. Checking OCD
People that struggle in this area have obsessions that lead them to do compulsive behaviors such as locking, unlocking, and relocking doors or turning the lights on and off a certain number of times.
While these behaviors are often shown in light or funny ways on television or in movies, this behavior is not funny. People that experience checking OCD experience high levels of anxiety around their fears. That’s what drives them to do the behavior. And it can get in the way of them completing the tasks that they need to do daily.
Some other examples of checking behaviors include researching symptoms of a disease repeatedly, looking for reassurance from others that they didn’t do something offensive in some way, checking in to make sure loved ones are OK repeatedly, constantly editing through emails or documents before sending them or turning them in.
2. Ordering And Arranging
Those that struggle in this area may live in homes that others think are so orderly and organized. However, their homes or rooms look like that because of the compulsive behavior that the person has. This could include making sure items are even spaces apart, grouped by color, or that there are only even numbers in a row. They can become obsessed about how things look and are arranged to the point that they can have a difficult time functioning until they correct whatever it is that’s out of place.
Hoarding is another type of OCD that many people are familiar with, but not everyone is aware that it’s a mental health disorder. It’s not something to make light of or something that people are just choosing to do because they want to. There is a difference between someone who hoards as an OCD tendency and someone that just likes to collect things.
When people struggle with this area of OCD, it can make it difficult for them to throw things away, even old things that have been used. It can also cause them to collect things that they don’t need and that have no value. And by holding on to so many things, it can make it difficult for them to stay organized.
This has many different types of consequences, including the fact that it can be unhygienic, and in extreme cases, it could lead to diseases. Hoarding can also lead to people living in unsafe homes in the event of a fire or other natural disaster.
There are several different reasons why people may struggle with hoarding. They can be holding on to things that are sentimental to them to the point that they struggle with getting rid of any of them.
They could also be hoarding as a result of being deprived of things in the past. This could lead them to hold onto one thing they no longer use because they have new ones out of fear that they might not have any future. This could be someone saving a pile of old jeans with holes and stains even though they have nicer jeans that they wear just if they need those old ones in the future.
Some people who struggle with hoarding do it because they think getting rid of the object could pose potential harm to others.
4. Intrusive Thoughts
Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that enter a person’s mind seemingly out of nowhere. They are things that the person finds concerning and disturbing. There are many different kinds of intrusive thoughts that can occur. It can include things like:
- Sexual thoughts such as fear of being attracted to a child, family member, or others that they don’t want to be attracted to.
- Believing that their thoughts control the weather or possible outcomes such as car accidents.
- Thoughts that they have sinned without knowing it or that they have done something against their religion and will be punished because of it.
- Fear of doing something dangerous such as jumping in front of a train, dropping a baby, or harming innocent people.
- Extreme focus on a certain body function such as swallowing or breathing.
People that struggle with contamination due to OCD may engage in behavior such as constantly washing their hands, recleaning the dishes, using a new bar of soap every time they take a shower, or going to great lengths not to touch a doorknob out in public.
They may have an intense fear of germs and picking up illnesses or diseases.
OCD Treatment Options
Thankfully, there are treatment options for OCD. If you are trying to manage symptoms of OCD, you may find it helpful to work with a mental health professional, like a psychologist, that can assist you. There are a few different types of therapy that are commonly used for OCD treatment.
One of these treatments is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). During this therapy, the therapist will help you be gradually exposed to the things that trigger your compulsive behavior. They will help you learn how to handle the Obsession in a management way while not doing the compulsive behavior that you would normally do.
That is just one example of a type of therapy that can work to treat OCD. However, there are other options, as well. If you’re interested in learning what the best option is for you, it’s important to speak with a mental health professional who can help.
Some people also benefit from certain medications when learning to overcome their OCD symptoms. However, this is not the best fit for everyone, and you must speak with your physician if you’re interested in exploring these options. If you’re curious about whether you may be experiencing ADHD, take this ADHD test to determine the next steps.
If you find that your OCD tendencies impact your life, then it’s a good indication that you could benefit from working with a professional to learn how to manage your symptoms effectively. Make sure to find a therapist that you’re comfortable working with. It’s important that you feel you can trust them to guide you through the therapy process.