Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is estimated to impact 3.9 million Americans who have been formally diagnosed with OCD. Individuals who seek proper treatment for this anxiety disorder often avoid disruptions in their daily life as a result. For those who have yet to seek out a diagnosis or help from a behavioral health provider, lack of attention can lead to feelings of distress or difficulty keeping focused on things other than primary obsessions/compulsions. Keep reading to learn more about obsessive-compulsive disorder, what signs of the disorder might look like, and when you should seek the help of a professional.
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, obsessive-compulsive disorder is “an anxiety disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions).” Obsessions are “recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that cause distressing emotions such as anxiety or disgust.” Compulsions are “repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession.”
What Are Some Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Below are several examples of what compulsions might look like for an individual with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The most common compulsion tied to obsessive-compulsive disorder is cleaning. Related to the fear of something being dirty or covered in germs, some individuals with OCD will spend hours of their day cleaning objects or surfaces until their compulsion is met. This also applied to the compulsion to clean one’s self or achieving the feeling of being clean. Individuals might spend a large amount of time washing their hands repetitively or showering multiple times a day.
We have all experienced the need to double-check if we turned the oven off or if we locked the door at night, but for an individual with obsessive-compulsive disorder, “checking” can become a more disruptive process. This might look like an individual checking if they locked the door over and over again, even when they know it has been locked.
Repetitive Phrases or Actions
For an individual who feels the need to repeat a phrase, number, word, or action multiple times before feeling at ease, they might be experiencing a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is often related to the idea an individual has that repeating something or doing something a certain number of times will prevent danger from occurring. This might look like individuals muttering a phrase to themselves over and over or even switching a light on and off a certain number of times before they feel it is safe.
Many individuals make light of their need to keep everything organized or looking a certain way. Individuals who have obsessive-compulsive disorder might experience this to a much larger degree, feeling the need to arrange an item on a shelf so that it is turned or placed in a very specific way. Should the item not look exactly how they feel it needs to, it could lead to feelings of anxiety or distress until it is corrected. This might look like moving a knick-knack on a bookshelf, and not stopping until it is perfectly placed.
Often a response to intrusive or incessant thoughts such as harmful or troubling thoughts, that the individual does not wish to feel, mental compulsions can also be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder. This could look like repeating phrases in one’s head, praying, or trying to get those thoughts to leave their mind.
When Should You Get Help?
If you are experiencing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, you might benefit from consulting with a behavioral health provider. Getting help sooner, rather than later, can help you avoid growing feelings of anxiety and distress while helping you learn tools to manage your symptoms over time.
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