Many people see a person who is overly fussy, or what they would call obsessive-compulsive as being funny, or a person to laugh at. They may be someone who is super orderly with their things. They arrange their closet based on colors, their house is squeaky clean, and everything is in its proper place.
You might call them obsessive-compulsive, but that term doesn’t pertain to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The person who is fussy is possibly a perfectionist, which is a different thing. Having OCD is not funny at all.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Overview
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health disorder whereby a person has obsessions, which are unwanted thoughts, that are devastating fixations about a particular thing(s) or sensation(s). They may be unreasonably anxious over a possible event that has very little chance of really happening, or are driven to do something repeatedly, known as a compulsion. This can lead to stressful actions.
It is normal to check the door to see if it has been locked for the night, or to check to make sure the stove has been properly turned off. That’s just being cautious. You may have even gone back to your house, to check that something was done right.
However, if you have to check and re-check over and over, and your actions are more like a habitual sequence, rather than just a forgetful mind, then you may be showing signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What are the Types of OCD?
While we all have habits and repeated thoughts, OCD is when it’s adversely affecting everyday life. The thoughts and urges are out of control, aren’t enjoyable, and the person feels helpless – a victim of their own thoughts and actions. OCD can affect people in different ways. If you think you may have OCD, see if you recognize any of these behaviors.
Checking and Rechecking
You feel the need to check everything. Did you lock the door? Is the oven clean? Did you unplug the appliance? Did you turn off the lights? You feel a need to keep checking details to ensure you haven’t missed anything, even if you have only checked them a few minutes ago.
Fear of Contamination
You keep washing your hands for fear that the things you touch are contaminated. You continuously use cleaning agents or alcohol on any part of your body with the intention of getting rid of bacteria or anything that might make you ‘diseased.’ You may also brush your teeth excessively, or clean the bathroom and kitchen multiple times a day.
You also avoid crowded places or touching other people for fear of contracting germs. Sometimes, people with OCD also feel they’ve been treated like dirt (emotionally), and they try to get rid of the feeling by constant washing.
You feel like you can’t let go of your possessions even when they’re no longer useful. You’re obsessed with the thought that you need to keep them or save them for later. For example, hoarding unnecessary items such as old newspapers or empty food containers. You can’t bring yourself to throw anything away.
You might be obsessed with a line of thought, or you can’t stop yourself from repetitive, unwanted thoughts. They may be aggressive, violent, and harmful to others and yourself (even suicidal thoughts).
Mostly, you’re unlikely to act on the thoughts or be violent. They often remain inside your head, causing you great distress and fear.
You may also keep worrying that someone close to you might get sick with a life-threatening disease, might have a heart attack, or will suddenly die without any basis in fact.
Symmetry and Orderliness
This type of OCD involves arranging everything in a particular order or symmetry. Otherwise, you’ll feel uncomfortable and stressed. You become bothered when something is not in its place, even when it is only millimeters from its ‘proper’ position. Everything has its place and order and you will not stop until it is right.
Signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder generally covers both obsessions and compulsions. In some cases, though, a person only has either the obsession indicators or compulsion signs. The person suffering from this disorder does not often realize that their obsession with something or their compulsion to do an act is unreasonable or excessive.
Here are some of the signs:
- Fear of contamination or dirt
- Fear of uncertainty
- Arranging things in a particular order
- Violent thoughts
- Thinking about harming yourself or others
- Unwanted thoughts like aggression
- Worrying about yourself or others getting hurt
- Constantly being aware of body sensations
- Fear of touching surfaces or shaking hands
- Focused on a specific superstition or on objects that are viewed to be lucky or unlucky.
- Repeatedly washing your hands
- Counting or doing tasks in a specific order
- Always checking if the door is locked or the stove is off
- Following a strict routine
- Monitoring the body for symptoms of illness
- Repeatedly reviewing an event or memory
- Seeking approval or reassurance all the time
- Constantly counting or repeating certain words, especially out of fear
- Engaging in ceremonies or rituals
- Tapping your fingers
Can You Treat OCD?
Treatments may include medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. The doctor may prescribe you antidepressant or antipsychotic medications. Psychotherapies can help change the way you feel, think, and behave by exposing you to certain situations and objects or teaching you how to respond and resist your obsessions and compulsions.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of OCD, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. With proper guidance and treatment, you can improve the quality of your life.
If you meet someone who exhibits the behavior enumerated above, don’t simply assume that they are being super fussy, and especially don’t laugh at them. Try to understand and expand your compassion because that person may just be suffering from OCD.