Introduction to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD Brain

When it comes to your illness, knowledge is power! Getting a better understanding of your illness and ways it may show up leads to increased awareness.

With increased awareness you can begin to more clearly identify who you truly are versus whom your illness tells you that you are.

You can begin to identify the facts of a scenario versus the opinion and lies your illness tells you.

You can begin to recognize how you would prefer to react to a situation versus how your illness wants to react to the situation.


Increased knowledge and awareness leads to you knowing what to expect from your illness and puts you “one step ahead.” You can then begin to tackle maladaptive behaviors and more efficiently diffuse unnecessary thoughts and feelings.

So, let’s talk obsessive compulsive disorder.

OCD has become a pretty popular self-diagnosis in recent years. I’m sure you’ve all met or know of someone who is “sooo OCD.”


While I think it’s great that OCD is becoming a more widely recognized illness, one of the {many} problems with using “OCD” as synonym for perfectionism, organization, cleanliness, etc. is that it creates an unrealistic representation of the true disorder. Such usage often minimizes the internal chaos and suffering associated with OCD, which can be confusing and isolating to someone with the actual disorder. This leads only to more fear, embarrassment and hesitation to reach out for help rather than feeling like what you’re going through is very common among those struggling with OCD.

So, what does differentiate the true disorder from a casual self-diagnosis?

It’s not so much the actions, thoughts or preferences. It’s the underlying thought process, anxiety, rigidity and rules that drive someone to carry out an action, have a thought or preference. It’s the inability to move past an idea or a thought without carrying out a compulsion, even if you really want to. It’s the all-encompassing sensation you get when you get triggered that makes you feel paralyzed with fear or uneasiness. It’s the hours upon hours you spend thinking, worrying, checking, neutralizing, reassuring, avoiding etc. that interferes with everyday tasks and functioning.


For example, you may prefer have a tidy, organized desk at work. A neat desk may make it easier to locate things, have a larger space to work, maybe be esthetically pleasing. If the desk starts to get unorganized, this may be bothersome and perhaps you take a couple of minutes at the end of the day to re-organize.


Someone with OCD may also prefer a tidy, organized desk. But to you it’s not because it’s easy to locate things or that it’s helpful for you to actually do your work. It may have to look just right, maybe be symmetrical, have a certain number of each item, because if it doesn’t, your anxiety can be too high to focus on anything else. If there aren’t 5 of everything maybe that means your best friend will get in a car accident on the way home. If there are paperclips on one side of the desk and not the other this may make you actually feel uncomfortably uneven in your body. You may not necessarily want to organize your desk, but feel that you have to in order to relieve your anxiety, and may spend hours per day doing nothing other than organizing.


As you may see from this example, at first glance both individuals prefer a neat, organized desk, and may want to fix it if it gets unorganized. But both may not have OCD. It’s the “behind the scenes” thought process and interference with life that classifies someone as having OCD.

Watch my Introduction to OCD video here for a more in depth comparison between the thought process of someone who may identify as being “so OCD” versus someone who has diagnosable OCD.

If you notice you are:

-Flooded with thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, or fears

-Unable to move past certain thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, or fears even if you want to or logically know they’re irrational

-Excessively checking, cleaning, repeating behaviors, trying to stop thoughts or images from coming into your head, avoiding people or situations

-Asking for frequent reassurance or asking the same question over and over again

You may be struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder and could possibly benefit from seeking help from a professional. You don’t have to struggle alone!


Never give up; there is always hope!
~ Courtney



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