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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Pierce

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or Just Picky?

Most people have heard about Obsessive‐Compulsive Disorder (OCD) from various movies and TV shows.  We have all seen OCD dramatized on the TV show “Monk” or by Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets.”  Now we even have reality shows based on it, such as “Hoarders” and “Obsessed.”  The disorder has even become a mainstream term said jokingly, “You’re so OCD” when referring to any perfectionistic or abundant behavior.  But are you really OCD? Well, your friends may be right to call you OCD!  And you wouldn’t be alone, as over 3 million Americans suffer from OCD, making it one of the most common psychiatric problems in our country.  But I don’t act like “Monk,” so I can’t have OCD, right?  The popular media portrays only those who suffer from extremely severe Obsessive‐Compulsive Disorder, as with “Monk” and “Hoarders.”  But OCD more commonly occurs in a milder form of the disorder.   

First, let me explain what OCD is exactly.  Obsessive‐Compulsive Disorder is a type of Anxiety Disorder marked by obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors.  This disorder is based in fear.  Fear of germs that results in washing your hands fifty times a day.  Fear of fire causing you to repeatedly make sure the stove is off.  Some research indicates that up to 50% of people with OCD do not have any compulsive behaviors.  Still, just the obsessive thoughts can cause extreme distress.  Obsessions may include nagging fears that you will lose control, become violent, be inappropriate, or forget things, among others. Obsessive‐Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is often confused with Obsessive‐Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).  People with OCD are aware that their behaviors are abnormal.   They know logically that their hands are clean, but they feel compelled to wash them again anyway.  They know they turned the stove off, but they cannot keep from thinking that the house may burn down.  People who suffer from the Personality disorder (OCPD) believe that these same thoughts and behaviors are normal.  OCPD patients will explain why it is crucial to wash your hands five times; because the first time just gets the surface clean, and the second time focuses on the nails, etc.  Furthermore, people with OCPD are generally happy to do their compulsions.  This differs significantly from sufferers of OCD who live an anxious life unable to stop themselves time after time.   Understandably, OCPD patients are more difficult to treat, as they are unaware that any problem exists.   

So, how do you know if you have OCD or are just a picky person?  The simple answer is, “Does it interfere with your life?”  If these obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors are taking hours per day, causing arguments with your spouse, making you late at work, or leave you feeling like you are crazy, then you probably have OCD.  If you like things a certain way, but don’t have to fix it if something more important needs to be done, then you are probably just a perfectionist.  Don’t get me wrong; being a perfectionist is not good and often causes problems of its own, but it is not the same as OCD.  Of course, you can only be diagnosed by a professional.  So, as always, please seek medical advice if you think you have OCD or any other condition.

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