Spotlight: OCD

People who live with OCD drag a metal sea anchor around. Obsession is a break, a source of drag, not a badge of creativity, a mark of genius or an inconvenient side effect of some greater function.

David Adam, author of The Man Who Couldn’t Stop

Approximately 1.2% of the American population suffers from OCD, and the disorder often begins in childhood or adolescence, and increases with time.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is “an anxiety disorder in which time people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions).”

These behaviors are not infrequent quirks, as is portrayed on TV. Instead, these are time consuming behaviors that can interfere with a person’s life. To be diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, you must be having obsessions and/or compulsions for one hour or more per day, and they must cause distress and impair functioning in work and/or social settings. Approximately 1.2% of the American population suffers from OCD, and the disorder often begins in childhood or adolescence, and increases with time. (American Psychiatric Association) OCD is diagnosed and treated based on its two components: obsessions and compulsions.


Obsessions are intrusive, persistent thoughts that can be upsetting and sometimes disturbing. Some common obsessions that are symptoms of OCD include, but are not limited to:

  • Fears of contamination
  • Fears of losing control
  • Fears of being responsible for harm done to others
  • Perfectionism (although perfectionism and OCD are not the same thing!)
  • Unwanted thoughts
  • Religious obsessions
  • Increased fear of contracting a physical illness


Compulsions are repeated behaviors or mental acts which are performed to try to counter the obsessions and relieve stress. Some compulsions include, but are not limited to:

  • Excessive washing
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Re-checking driving/biking/walking routes
  • Repeating information to make sure it’s correct
  • Rearranging belongings frequently
  • Asking for reassurance frequently
  • Collecting things

OCD may seem like a harmless form of perfectionism on the surface, but obsessions can be seriously taxing on one’s mental health, and compulsions take up large amounts of time and usually inhibit people from living their lives, due to fear or just how time-consuming the obsessions are. OCD is a real mental illness and in addition to the previously mentioned symptoms, improper use of vocabulary can be extremely difficult to deal with. Oftentimes people will joke that they are “OCD” about something without recognizing the implications. OCD is not a verb, but rather a real condition and should be respectfully acknowledged.


Although OCD is life-altering, there are new treatments which slowly can help patients heal. If you have OCD and you don’t know what to do, you can get help from therapists, clinics and support groups (there are resources at the bottom of the article). You will be able to get guidance and support, and you should know that there will always be people rooting for you.

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