Minor superstitions and habits are common. If you have more extensive and frequent rituals, as long as they don’t take up too much time or interfere with your daily life, you don’t have a “psychiatric disorder.”
What Is OCD?
OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) combines intrusive, irrational thoughts and fears (obsessions) with repetitive rituals (compulsions) that provide only temporary relief from the anxiety caused by the troubling thoughts. OCD is caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors. Heredity may play a role in some cases. Usually, symptoms first appear in young adulthood. Anxious people may have OCD tendencies, and stress can precipitate the condition. Full-blown OCD is a serious disorder. It controls more and more of a person’s time until daily life becomes a misery. Functioning is disrupted and relationships suffer. People with OCD are often filled with shame and try to hide their behaviors.
What Are the Symptoms of OCD?
If you suffer from OCD, you will recognize some of the following:
- You are afraid of being contaminated by germs and dirt, and of getting sick
- You don’t feel suicidal or angry at anyone, but you can’t stop worrying that you may harm yourself or others
- You have forbidden explicit thoughts or images about violence or sex
- You have unwanted moral or religious preoccupations
- You are preoccupied with symmetry, order and exactness.
- You wash and scrub your hands over and over until they are raw
- You check multiple times whether the stove is turned off or if the door is locked
- You have complicated rituals, involving many steps. If one step in the sequence is done incorrectly, you have to start all over
- Certain items such as books, clothes, hangers or objects on a shelf must be lined up “just right”
- You count or repeat words silently a specific number of times.
Other Forms of OCD
Hoarding. Hoarders are people who refuse to throw anything away. A home can become filled with old newspapers, junk mail or unwanted clothing. Hoarding is not the same as collecting. It is very hard for the partner of a hoarder because there is no room for anything that really needs to be stored.
Hairpulling and Skin-picking. These can simply be insignificant habits. However, if severe, they are true disorders that can result in disfigurement.