First, let’s start with what it is not.
- Washing hands after taking garbage out
- Making your bed in the morning
- Anxiety provoking
- Uncommon (but real)
Ocd is an illness that involves anxiety. A thought will make someone anxious, the anxiety drives them to do an action to get rid of the anxiety.
That thought or image that we obsess over and over think is called an obsession. The action to make the thought or image, and the anxiety go away is called a compulsion or a ritual.
Here’s an example: John is afraid of Walmart because the logo is blue and he had a cat drown in water (yes it can be this irrational). He fears that every time he goes passed a Walmart he is going to cause harm to someone he loves. That’s an obsession. In order to stop that anxiety, John drives an extra 15 minutes to and from work to avoid going passed Walmart. That’s a compulsion. If John has to go passed Walmart for example on a highway, John has panic attacks and has to complete other rituals like tapping his left hand index finger on the steering wheel four times fast, three times in a row while counting out loud. In John’s head, this prevents his loved ones from being injured. John knows his thoughts are irrational, but can’t seem to make them stop. That is ocd.
Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior have to take up at least an hour a day to be considered ocd.
Many people go by certain “themes” of ocd, but I find that doing that only prevents getting better. If I think ocd only affects my relationship with my boyfriend, but don’t recognize the same patterns in other aspects of my life it will either destroy that relationship, or keep jumping from one thing to the next.
Obsessions can be about anything. Common compulsions are checking, washing, seeking reassurance, avoiding things, and counting. The list goes on.
Above is a photo I made about compulsive checking. Ocd sucks, but there is therapy and medication to help overcome it. If you’re struggling please reach out for help. The sooner the better. Recovery is possible.