Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has become an overused phrase in our common speech, but it actually refers to a serious mental health condition. If you have OCD, you don’t just clean things obsessively because you want to see your glassware sparkle in the sun; you clean that glassware obsessively so that you won’t inadvertently kill yourself or your family with germs. If you have OCD, you have an anxiety disorder that’s characterized by obsessive, intrusive thoughts, urges, or mental images.
Our mental health professionals at The Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling in New York City’s Greenwich Village know how serious OCD actually is. Here they share a few of the signs that could mean you have OCD and need treatment so that you can stop obsessing and enjoy your life again.
If you have OCD, you may recognize that you don’t really need to check the stove seven times before you leave the house to ensure that it’s off, but you do it anyway. You may obsess about germs, which leads you to compulsively clean surfaces over and over, trying to disinfect every surface.
You could also have obsessive thoughts about sex or violence that you can’t control. People with OCD often have aggression toward themselves or toward other people and think constantly about causing harm.
Even a relatively innocuous behavior, such as putting things in a precise order, could be a sign of OCD. If you can’t tolerate things out of order and are late to work or school because you have make sure your bathroom cabinet is organized alphabetically, for instance, you probably have OCD.
Everyone can be a bit obsessive some of the time. Maybe you like to put all the pots and pans in the kitchen in their designated spots, so that they’re handy and easily found when you need them. But if you spend more than an hour a day organizing your kitchen over and over, or more than an hour washing your hands, or thinking obsessively about sex or violence, you could have OCD.
People who clean obsessively because they enjoy the outcome of their labors don’t have OCD. They’re just clean.
If you have OCD, you clean to alleviate your anxiety about germs, but finishing your job doesn’t give you satisfaction. Even though you may have some immediate relief from your fear and anxiety, it’ll probably crop up again the next day, or even hours later, when you repeat the cleaning ritual.
Men, women, and children with OCD experience disruptions in their lives because of their compulsive thoughts and behaviors. You may find it difficult to enjoy a night out with friends, because you’re worrying about something you left undone at home. Or you might not be able to have relationships or do a good job at your work because you’re obsessing over sex or other intrusive thoughts.
If you have a fear of germs, you might avoid public spaces, including schools, workplaces, and shopping centers. You might also turn to alcohol or drugs to try to alleviate your anxiety.
If you have OCD, you might also have a compulsion to count repeatedly, clear your throat, or grunt. Other tics associated with OCD include shoulder shrugging, eye blinking, and making grimaces.
If you think that you or a loved one has OCD, contact us for help and treatment. Use the online form, or call our friendly staff during office hours.