When do personality quirks cross the line into obsessive-compulsive disorder?Is it OCD?
Hooked on hand sanitizer? Closet organized to a T? Quirks like this can usually be chalked up to personality or preference, but in some cases they may point to a more serious issue: obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition marked by obsessive thoughts and compulsions that affects about 1% of U.S. adults.
How can you tell if OCD tendencies are symptoms that require professional help? There’s no easy test, as it’s usually a matter of degree, says Jeff Szymanski, PhD, executive director of the International OCD Foundation, a Boston-based advocacy organization. Still, there are certain patterns that may indicate the full-blown disorder. Here are 10 of the most common.
Compulsive hand-washing or hand sanitizer use is so prevalent in OCD that “washers” has become a widely accepted category of OCD patient. The urge commonly stems from a fear of germs (the most common obsession seen in OCD), but it also can be rooted in fears of making others sick or of being impure or immoral.
When to seek help: If you think about germs even after washing your hands, worry that you’re not scrubbing well enough, or have irrational fears about disease (such as getting HIV from a shopping cart), it could be a sign that your hand-washing is compulsive, Szymanski says. Elaborate hand-washing routines—needing to wash five times and get soap under each nail, for example—are another warning sign.
People with OCD who fall into the “washers” category also tend to clean compulsively. As with hand-washing, housecleaning is often a way of easing germaphobia or feelings of impurity. Although cleaning can help chase these obsessive thoughts away, the relief does not last, and the urge to clean is often even stronger the next time.
When to seek help: If you spend hours a day cleaning, it’s almost certainly related to OCD, but it’s harder to know if cleaning for an hour a day could be a sign of OCD. “It’s really the consequence of stopping,” says Michael Jenike, MD, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston. “If you don’t [clean], you get terribly anxious and fearful.”
So-called checking behaviors—returning three, four, or even 20 times to make sure the oven is off or the front door is locked—are the most common compulsions associated with OCD, affecting nearly 30% of people with the disorder. Like other compulsive behaviors, checking can be driven by a variety of obsessions, ranging from a fear of getting hurt to deep-seated feelings of irresponsibility.
When to seek help: It’s normal to double-check something once in a while. But if checking interferes with your daily life (by making you late for work, say), or becomes a ritual that you can’t do without, it could be a sign of OCD. Jenike has patients who are compelled to check the oven exactly three times, for instance.
Some people with OCD perform tasks according to a certain numeric pattern or count to themselves as they do everyday things (such as climbing stairs or cleaning). These behaviors may be driven by superstitions. For instance, a belief that the number seven is good may lead someone to feel that they’ll hurt themselves or someone else if they don’t take seven steps at a time.
When to seek help: “It’s all about context—does the behavior make sense in your life?” Szymanski says. Counting can be a good distraction as you walk to your car or climb the stairs to your office. “If it doesn’t bother you or anybody else, you are fine,” Jenike says. “People come to me if they can’t get numbers out of their head.”
via: INFORMATION NIGERIA