So I have OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s very mild compared to others, and I am so grateful for that. What I learned through my diagnosis though was that there are many symptoms of OCD that people probably are not aware of. I myself was even ignorant to many of these upon my diagnosis. I thought I was just very messed up somehow, and it turns out that it’s actually quite normal to have some of the things that I have. Many people think that OCD is excessive cleaning and organization, counting, and wanting things, just so. While some of that is true, there is a lot more to it.
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain actions (compulsions).*https://www.healthline.com/health/ocd/social-signs#what-is-ocd
Although people with OCD may know that their thoughts and behaviors don’t make logical sense, they’re often unable to stop them.” *
I thought I would outline some of the more common, but not as well known symptoms for you:
- Accumulating piles of useless junk OR compulsive de-cluttering: some of the obsession with not being able to get rid of things comes from the anxiety of the loss of the item being let go. Some comes from the sheer weight of the decision that has to be made, it’s simply easier not to make that decision and keep the item. De-cluttering becomes a compulsion, having too much stuff can be overwhelming, making you more anxious. People have described it as their stuff physically making them feel as if a weight is on them, crushing them. So they purge stuff, over and over again. They become overwhelmed by things, feel like their very homes are closing in on them. They will get rid of essential things even though they know they have to repurchase them again, like kitchen equipment, or lamps.
2. Asking for reassurance: Another symptom I am all too familiar with. I am constantly looking for reassurance, confirmation that I made the right decision, that I am doing the right thing, and going in the right direction. I worry for years when I did something that I felt was unacceptable An example would be saying something that could’ve been construed as overly rude, stupid, or awkward will haunt me and give me massive anxiety.
3. Avoiding places or situations: one thing I am especially good at is avoiding confrontation. Even the smallest form of it. A phone call to a utility company to dispute a charge is something that causes me such dread I will start shaking and sobbing. I would rather endure the charge than possibly have an uncomfortable conversation with someone about it. Any time I am in a public situation and there is even a remote sense of danger my body tingles. An argument between a couple, a shady looking person in dark clothes with their face covered could be trying to get out the rain but in my brain they are an immediate threat and I should RUN.
4. Checking doors repeatedly to ensure they are locked: Every. Single. Night. Check the door. Ask my husband if he locked the doors. Check them anyway. Open the doors and close them and lock them again. Check the door into the garage and then into the house. Check the door into the backyard.Open and close all of them and lock them and shake the handles to make sure they are locked. Check them all over again. Ask if my husband has set the alarm. Set the alarm. Then check that the alarm is set. The close the app and open it five minutes later to make sure it’s actually set. Repeat.
5. Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts: Not to be confused with PTSD. My intrusive thoughts are often about death of my family and friends, and also in traffic and vehicles. Whenever I am on a freeway or stretch of road that has any sort of a ledge, cliff, break in a barrier, or on a bridge (you get the picture) my brain screams at me to drive off of it. Or to drive into a tree, or onto the train tracks, or into the oncoming traffic. The thing is, I don’t want to die. I don’t want other people to die, and I know in those scenarios that is the likely outcome but my compulsion is telling me to do it over and over again. I never will because I am able to recognize that it is a ridiculous and very dangerous compulsion, but the anxiety that it causes it still very overwhelming
The other part of this compulsion for me is that I often have dreams and quick vision-like daydreams of my family and friends being murdered or dying in some way or another. A burglar breaks in and stabs my husband, my parents get in an awful car wreck, my best friend is in a boating accident, my boss falls when hiking. Some of this happens when I am awake, with them or when they aren’t even anywhere close to me, and sometimes they are extremely vivid and scary dreams. Sometimes I wake up from them sobbing. Sometimes my husband wakes me up.
6. Perfectionism-the obsession with being so perfect that you end up giving up because it is overwhelming and unattainable, and then feeling like a failure because of this
Another interesting fact is that OCD is commonly mistakenly misdiagnosed as ADHD because many of the symptoms overlap. OCD is considered an anxiety disorder. You can have both ADHD and OCD at the same time. Or any other combination of mental illnesses together.
Here is a link to an article from Vice that tells some people’s real life personal stories about OCD symptoms that aren’t as out of the ordinary as you would think, but aren’t often talked about. I highly recommend giving it a read. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/nex4qm/the-many-obsessions-that-can-haunt-a-person-with-ocd
I hope you found this informational and interesting, and not too boring. I am always trying to learn more about Mental Illness and the way our minds work, and why they do the things they do. The more we try and educate ourselves on these things the better we can understand that we are all very much alike, and that mental illness is just that, another illness that can be treated. It is the very first, and most important step in ending the stigma.