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“I’m so OCD”

April 30, 2018

We have all heard someone say it – whether they are wiping crumbs off a table or double checking their car is locked – many of us have confused precaution and cleanliness with the serious mental illness, OCD. Sure, some people may be more concerned about organization or safety more than others, but when do simple routines become OCD?

To clarify, OCD is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD manifests in obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Obsessions are “recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced as intrusive and unwanted” (APA 2012). Compulsions, in contrast to the cognitions, are the behavioral manifestation of OCD; compulsions are “repetitive behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly” (APA 2012). Obsessions differ for each individual, but some common symptoms emerge, like preoccupation with cleaning, symmetry, taboo thoughts, and harm.

These common obsessions match stereotypes of OCD, and may cause an extra clean person to believe they “are so OCD”. If you do feel that your obsessions and compulsions around cleaning are disruptive to your daily life, you could consider talking to a doctor. However, individuals with OCD may spend hours a day washing their hands, and be temporarily relieved that their hands are clean, only for obsessive thoughts to emphasize the small possibility that some germs were missed.

Cleaning is not the only symptom of OCD. The American Psychiatric Association classifies OCD with other related disorders. These other disorders center on certain aspects of the body or other objects: body dysmorphic disorder, hoarding disorder, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), excoriation (Skin-picking) disorder, substance/medication-induced OCD, OCD due to medical condition, other and unspecified OCD (2012). Many of these related disorders overlap with anxiety and personality disorders, as well as tic disorder. OCD can be treated in a variety of ways, and depends on comorbid and OCD related diagnoses. Common treatments are psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, medication, and family and group therapy.

Professionals also evaluate how aware clients are of their disorder. Individuals with OCD may have high insight to very low insight of their OCD. These classifications “good or high insight” to “absent insight/delusional beliefs” can classify the severity of OCD and influence treatment. Individuals may see their compulsive behaviors (ie checking the locks 10 times) as logical or illogical, but still unable to stop the behavior. Because the compulsive behavior relieves the stress from the obsessive thought, the individual instinctively completes the behavior. Since the thoughts are obsessive, they are recurring, and the individual becomes stuck in a cycle of repeating the behavior. Having little control over oneself is extremely stressful for individuals with OCD, and playfulling joking that we are “so OCD” ignores their struggle. Instead of belittling people’s mental illness, we all can support individuals with OCD by educating ourselves. This blog is a great way to learn more about mental illnesses – follow iPrevail on social media to read a new article everyday!


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American Psychiatric Association (2012). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-V. American Psychiatric Association.

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