How Do I Know if I Have OCD?

"OCD" is one of those terms that some people misuse as a way to describe people who like things super-clean or arranged just so. But if you have the actual condition that’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, how it affects your life is very real.

OCD usually doesn’t happen all at once. Symptoms start small, and to you, they can seem to be normal behaviors. They can be triggered by a personal crisis, abuse, or something negative that affects you a lot, like the death of a loved one. It’s more likely if people in your family have OCD or another mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety.

OCD symptoms include obsessions, compulsions, or both.

An obsession is an uncontrollable thought or fear that causes stress. A compulsion is a ritual or action that someone repeats a lot. Compulsions may offer some relief, but only for a little while.

Common Obsessions

Obsessions often have a theme, such as these:

Theme: Fear of germs or dirt

Symptom: You might be scared to touch things other people have touched, like doorknobs. Or you don't want to hug or shake hands with others.

Theme: Extreme need for order

Symptom: You feel stressed when objects are out of place. It’s really hard for you to leave home until you’ve arranged things in a certain way.

Theme: Fear of hurting yourself or someone else

Symptom: When you're thinking of something completely different, you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else.

Theme: Excessive doubt or fear of making a mistake

Symptom: You need constant encouragement or reassurance from others that what you're doing is right or OK.

Theme: Fear of embarrassment

Symptom: You’re afraid you might yell out curse words in public or behave badly in social situations.

Theme: Fear of evil or hostile thoughts, including warped ideas about sex or religion

Symptom: You imagine troubling sexual or disrespectful scenarios.

Common Compulsions

Like obsessions, compulsions also have common themes and symptoms:

Theme: Washing or cleaning

Symptom: You wash your hands, shower, or take a bath over and over.

Continued

Theme: Checking

Symptom: You check repeatedly to make sure kitchen appliances are turned off or the door is locked when you leave.

Theme: Counting

Symptom: You say numbers in a certain pattern out loud or to yourself.

Theme: Order

Symptom: You feel the need to eat certain foods in a specific order. You arrange all your clothes or kitchen pantry items in a specific way.

Theme: Routine

Symptom: You say or do things a set number of times in a certain way before being able to leave the house.

Theme: Collecting or hoarding

Symptom: Your home is full of things you don't use or need, and you can't stop yourself from buying more.

These repetitive routines usually don't have anything to do with the obsession you're trying to fix and can take hours to do.

Diagnosis

If you think you might have OCD, see a doctor or a psychiatrist.

The diagnosis process will likely include:

A physical exam to see if your symptoms are due to a health condition.

Blood tests to check your blood count, how well your thyroid works, and any drugs or alcohol in your system.

A psychological test or evaluation about your feelings, fears, obsessions, compulsions, and actions.

One some level, many people have superstitions or rituals, or fear that they left the door unlocked or the oven on before leaving for work or vacation. If you can control those thoughts or think about them logically, it's probably not OCD. If you can't control them, or they take up at least an hour of your day and cause problems in your life, it's a sign that it's time to get help.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 19, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:


Mayo Clinic: "Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)."

Beyond OCD: "Obsessions and Compulsions."

Cleveland Clinic: "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder."

National Institute of Mental Health: "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder."

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