Do I have OCD?
Self-diagnosis is never a good idea. If you think you may suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the best thing you can do is consulting a therapist. But I do not want to be a hypocrite: it can be extremely difficult to stop yourself from googling and if you’re reading this article, it probably means that you want to learn more about diagnosing OCD. I will not be able to give you a Do I have OCD quiz – simply because so far, I have not found any that I thought was worth sharing (if you have one, please feel free to share it in the comment section) but there’s one thing that I think is very important to know about: DSM-5.
Now, what is DSM-5?
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition is a manual that provides clinicians with official definitions of and criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.
In this post, we’ll look at what DSM-5 says about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and in order to give you a better understanding about what it feels like to live with OCD, I’ll share my friends’ and my personal experiences with you.
O for Obsessive: Intrusive thoughts, urges and images
“Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive, unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.“
What do we mean by recurrent and persistent thoughts and urges?
OCD is a very creative mental disorder so it would be impossible to list all the intrusive thoughts and urges it can give you, but I have been haunted by unwanted thoughts for over a decade so at least I can give you a few examples:
Fear of losing control:
- I used to be afraid of harming my loved ones. It got to the point that I just did not want to stay at home and I would go out every single night just to be as far away from them as possible
- In my late teens, I was terribly afraid of blinding myself. It does not make sense, does it? I know but OCD is not famous for being rational.
- It’s gotten a lot better over the years, but I will often get an irrational urge to jump when I am in a high place.
Fear of being contaminated by germs or contaminating others
I guess Contamination OCD is the most well-known subset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And it is much more than a simple cleaning addiction. People who suffer from this type of OCD are extremely worried about becoming contaminated after coming into contact with certain objects or people.
I do not have Contamination OCD, but I have found a very interesting article about it: 15 Signs That You Might Have Contamination OCD.
Unacceptable Sexual Thoughts
Have you ever had to fear of being sexually attracted to one of your family members? Or have you ever been afraid of being gay/straight? It might be a sign of OCD!
And a few more examples:
- unwanted blasphemous thoughts and images (what if I do not even believe in God? What if I do something absolutely unacceptable at my local church?
- extreme superstitions
- fear of fainting
C for Compulsive: Compulsions and Rituals
“The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some thought or action (i.e., by performing a compulsion).“
OCD feels like being trapped in the prison of your own mind and constantly looking for a way out. It is extremely difficult to get rid of your disturbing thoughts but you just need to find a way to keep them under control and to ease your anxiety. And this is why you start performing compulsions.
Compulsions and OCD rituals are often misunderstood by those who do not suffer from OCD. Your friend who cleans the kitchen floor 27 times every morning, does not do it because he enjoys it that much: he probably hates doing it and would stop cleaning if he could, but he just can not stop because he’s terribly afraid that his children might get sick if he did not clean the kitchen well enough.
And cleaning is not the only compulsion that people with OCD can have. Other common compulsions are:
- excessive double checking: Have I locked the door?
- excessive praying
- hand washing
- ordering and arranging things
- repeating certain words
- reassurance seeking
Furthermore, OCD can also involve mental rituals such as reassuring oneself that “everything is okay” or repeating certain words in your head. And having mental rituals was one of the main reasons why it was extremely difficult for me to realize that I had OCD.
Would like to read more about this topic?
- Magical Thinking OCD
- Set yourself free: How to break the vicious cycle?
- Mental Rituals in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
D for Disorder: OR are we all a little OCD?
Okay, a lot of people need to check if they’ve locked the door and many of us love cleaning but it does not mean that everyone is “a little OCD”. OCD is a disorder – which means that your obsessions and compulsions make your life significantly more difficult. Let’s see what DSM-5 says about this:
“The obsessions or compulsions are time consuming (e.g., take more than 1 hour per day) or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.“
And a few more things
“The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition.“
I think this one is pretty straightforward: you will not only have obsessions and compulsions when you drink alcohol or when you’re on medication.
Finally, every OCD sufferer is different, so one thing that also needs to be specified while diagnosing OCD is whether the person who suffers from OCD is:
– With good or fair insight: it means that you know that your OCD beliefs are probably not true but it does not mean that you can just stop having them. Sounds irrational? Yes, I know, but this is the sad truth. For example, I know that my fear of throwing myself under the tube train is completely irrational because I just do not want to do it and I also know that touching my smartphone will not me protect from this imaginary disaster but this does not mean that I can stop having intrusive thoughts and performing my rituals.
– With poor insight: you think that your obsessive-compulsive disorder beliefs are probably true.
– With absent insight/delusional beliefs: you are absolutely convinced that your OCD beliefs are true. Example: I used to be a hundred percent sure that I was a psychopath and that I was dangerous to society.
OCD is a very complex mental disorder and it would be impossible to give an overview of it in one single post. As I have mentioned earlier, you should not come up with a self-diagnosis and you should see a certified therapist if you think you may have OCD. However, here’s a list of related posts in case you’d like to read more about this topic:
- 6 types of OCD
- Pure O: living in Endless Fear
- What is it like to live with OCD? A day in my life.
- OCD: a vicious cycle of doubt and guilt
- Magical Thinking OCD
- How to tell the difference between OCD and GAD?
- 9 things that you should not say to someone with OCD
- Frequently Asked Questions about OCD
As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than talking about my experiences: reading about yours. So please share your thoughts in the comment section!
24 thoughts on “Do I have OCD?”
I think it would be really interesting if you did a post comparing OCD and obsessive compulsive personality disorder.
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That is a fantastic idea! Thank you very much – I will do that. Especially because a lot of people still think that OCD and OPCD are the same. I still need to do some more research on OPCD though 🙂
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Hmm. It never occurred to me to ever read the DSM-5. I intersect with it so frequently, you would think I memorized the whole thing. I have a new(ish) coworker who constantly references “his OCD” while talking about his need for order. I can’t decide if he really has OCD and knows what he’s talking about or is using it as an adjective. It really annoys me. BUt I can’t decide if it annoys me because he’s making light of something serious that affects me or if it’s because I’m worried he’s going to offend someone else. We’re both on the leadership team at my workplace. Any opinion? Let it go or engage in a conversation?
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To be honest, I have only read the part about OCD. :))
It is a difficult situation and it is hard to decide if he really has OCD. If I were you, I would totally engage in a conversation – because if it annoys you, you should not let it go. It will annoy me when people use OCD as a synonym for being too organized and in my case it is mainly because I am worried that they would offend someone else. So when I hear someone saying that they are “so OCD”, I will usually ask them if they really have OCD – and in some of the cases, it turns out that they actually suffer from OCD – and then it’s usually the start of a nice conversation. And if they do not have OCD, they will it understand the way it feels once you explain it to them. So far, I have not really got any negative reactions from people – I do believe that most of the people who say such things do so because they simply do not know what it really feels like to have OCD and if they knew what it felt like they would not make fun of it. So I really think you should talk to him !
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I’m wondering, if I have schizophrenia (diagnosed 5 years ago), could my OCD-like symptoms be a part of it or is it something separate… I’m so tired, but I’m afraid of telling the doctor that I suspect myself to have OCD because I would feel like I’m trying to get more numbers into my card. I have had very classic symptoms listed here for about 3-4 years, sometimes worse and taking few hours daily, sometimes better and only reduced to the need of having order and washing hands many times a day… I might be wrong but I feel like schizophrenia and OCD overlap in some ways. I would think having to apologize to “the voices” 50 times and self-harm or my cat will die/I will get cancer sounds like both, I don’t realize at that time that it’s irrational. I feel terrible thinking about self-diagnosing, but it’s been becoming worse again. Since a month and a half, my hair has been falling out more due to iron deficiency, I’ve started taking medication and I have all the signs that it’s gotten better already, but I’ve been very obsessed with seeking reassurance that it’s 100% getting better, because what if it isn’t, and what if it will suddenly get worse. I’ve been brushing it to “please” anxiety as if I am just waiting for it to suddenly start falling out much more and confirm my fear. I have an extreme urge to brush it now but from what I’ve read, giving into the urges just makes it worse. It’s often causing me so much distress I feel like dying, I’m unable to keep working (I’m an illustrator working from home), I constantly sleep in hope I will wake up less anxious. I’m not sure why I write, I think I’m just so desperate. I just wish to get better every day, I’m wasting all of my early twenties because the constant distress won’t leave me alone.
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I am sorry to read that you’re going through the same struggles. Well, I am not a certified therapist or a mental health professional but what I have heard is that there is a comorbidity between schizophrenia and OCD – and the thoughts that you have just told me about like – apologizing to the voices 50 times or your cat will die sounds exactly something that I would do.
I really think the best thing you could possibly do is telling your doctor about your feelings and you shouldn’t be afraid of telling him/her about it. No mental health professional would ever think that someone is “trying to get more numbers into their cards” – and even if someone thought so, your mental health is way more important than the opinion of other people!
And well…unfortunately I can totally relate to what you have said about feeling like you’re wasting your twenties because I am pretty much going through the same thing – like…I am in my twenties too and I feel that I have wasted so much of my life worrying about irrational things but on the other hand, this feeling can sometimes be motivating like..there is light at the end of the tunnel. I was diagnosed with OCD a long time ago and I can tell you that it’s been getting better and better. I think seeing a therapist is definitely the first step one should take, it has helped me enormously! Like….before going to therapy, I used to think I was a dangerous monster or that I was just…purely “insane” but over the years I have kind of managed to keep my OCD under control.
And I think writing about your feelings can help a lot! And of course, if you need someone to talk to, I am here! As well as a lot of other people who are going through the same struggles as we’re not alone with this!
Hope you’ll will feel better soon.