Recognize Obsessive Compulsive

Recognize Obsessive Compulsive Behavior: Ritual is something that every human being uses everyday — whether we realize it or not. Most of us have a ritual, or pattern of behaviors, that we use when we wake up. Some of us have to wait until after breakfast to brush our teeth, while other people absolute must have a hot shower before doing anything else. Most of us have regular routes that we take to and from work every day. And most of us have regular times for having meals, having snacks, waking up, going to bed, even for things like when we watch television. Our lives are filled with little rituals, patterns, and habits. This is because having rituals give us a sense of regularity, of stability, in our daily lives — they are the little things that we can depend on.  The inability to disrupt a ritual and be flexible for the situation at hand is often what is used to recognize obsessive compulsive behavior.

Human beings create ritual behaviors to feel a sense of control in an unpredictable world. But for some people, this backfires. Some people come to crave and even depend on performing certain ritualized behaviors in order to feel in control of their lives. If they cannot perform a certain action a certain amount or at a certain time, they feel stricken with anxiety. They are overwhelmed by unpleasant thoughts or distressing emotions, sometimes even to the point of panic. These reactions, and the reliance on specific behaviors to keep them at bay, are the result of a condition known as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It effects millions of Americans today, regardless or race, age, gender, or cultural background, and those who live with it every day know that it is a mentally, emotionally, and spiritually taxing condition.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is actually a specific type of anxiety disorder, with two parts. People with this disorder have constant, obsessive thoughts that are very unpleasant for them. These thoughts often revolve around a need for everything to be “perfect”, fear of injury or disease, or ideas that are forbidden by religious or moral codes, such as violence or certain sexual acts. To keep these obsessions under control, people suffering from the condition use compulsions, or exact, repetitive behaviors, to relieve anxiety and panic. Compulsions may include counting things, repeating words, phrases, or motions over and over again, or constantly rearranging objects to make them “perfect.” Together, these two patterns of thoughts and behavior can become so strong that they interfere with day-to-day life.

There are many degrees of this disorder, ranging from mild cases who seem who just have a few compulsive habits, to very severe cases who may be home-bound with fear. Most people suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are aware, on some level, that their behavior is not normal. They realize that their obsessive thoughts are not logical, and that their compulsive behaviors don’t actually prevent any harm from coming to them. They may even feel ashamed of their behavior, and try to conceal it from others. However, OCD is not just a personal weakness, or some sort of personality flaw. OCD is a real illness. The good news is, that like many illnesses, it is treatable. Therapy, and medication if severity warrants, can be used to reduce and even eliminate OCD. You can live a life free of overwhelming impulses and time-consuming rituals. However, only you can decide if your behavior is something which is lowering your quality of life, something that you feel is disruptive or disproportionate, and something you want to commit to improving. To help yourself seriously evaluate if your patterns and habits are more than just quirks, ask yourself the following questions.

Do I…

  • Get bogged down by my preoccupation with specific rules, details, or numbers?
  • Get so caught up in the details that I miss out on the purpose of an activity?
  • Tweak and redo a project so many times that I am unable to meet school or work deadlines, or sometimes fail to complete it at all?
  • Feel uncomfortable letting others help me with a project or delegating, feeling that only I will get it “just right?”
  • Consistently feel plagued by fears of something terrible or catastrophic in the future — even though I know those fears are illogical?
  • Feel unable to combat my fears with reason?
  • Use certain habits or rituals to try to block out the fears, such as checking and rechecking the locks on my door, touching tiles bricks, or other architecture in a certain sequence, washing my hands often, or constantly making minute changes to the order of thing in my home so they “look perfect?”
  • Feel there are certain habits I MUST do to feel normal?
  • Feel overwhelmed or even panicked if I am unable to complete these habits?
  • Have difficulty throwing things away, for fear that I might need them?
  • Devote much more time than is necessary for financial reasons to work or work related tasks — particularly at the expense of ignoring friends and family?
  • Have trouble spending money, feeling that it needs to be saved for future times of need?
  • Adopt a very rigid stance on my personal and ethical beliefs?
  • Resist change?

Almost everyone could say yes to some of these questions on occasion. However, if you feel that you can answer yes to three or more of these questions on a consistent basis, it is possible that you are more than just a worrier or a perfectionist — you could in fact be suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. If this is the case, talk to a school counselor or a therapist. These professionals can help you sort through your feelings and recognize the symptoms of OCD. If you do have OCD, therapy is often helpful in relieving and sometimes eliminating the symptoms, usually by finding the root fear or memory that causes obsessive thoughts, and addressing it. In addition, there are things you can do on your own as well. Support groups are one of the most effective self-help treatments, especially in conjunction with therapy. If you feel trapped, or like you are missing out on your whole life because of compulsive worries and habits, remember that you don’t have to! OCD is treatable and curable with professional help. You can make the change, and you can take the first step by seeking help. Evaluate your behavior, as honestly as possible, and ask yourself: instead of using behaviors to control my life, are my behaviors controlling me?

Learning how to recognize obsessive compulsive behavior is a key piece of the healing process.