If you have obsessive thoughts that you can’t get rid of you, you might have obsessive compulsive disorder. Obsessions are thoughts that won’t go away. They are also unwanted and cause you a lot of stress. There are many different kinds of obsessions that can manifest in you. For example, common obsessions are worrying about becoming contaminated with a disease, that you’ll do something terrible or act inappropriately, or various kinds of repeated doubts. Sometimes obsessions will be violent or overtly sexual.
The second part to obsessive compulsive disorder is compulsions. If you do something over and over again to relieve anxiety, you might have obsessive compulsive disorder. Usually compulsions go hand in hand with obsessions. For example, if you obsess over getting sick you may feel compelled to wash your hands over and over and over again. Another common compulsion is cleaning or bringing extreme order to the environment around you.
How can you tell the difference between normal worry and doubts (which everyone has) and actual obsessive compulsive disorder?
Unfortunately, there is no reliable diagnostic test for obsessive compulsive disorder, such as a blood test. Instead, diagnosis is usually done during a face-to-face interview conducted by a psychologist or psychiatrist. As more research is done about obsessive compulsive disorder perhaps there will be a test developed that finds genetic markers or other biological characteristics that can make the diagnosis. However, certain medical tests may be a good idea to conduct to rule out other neurological conditions that can produce OCD-like behavior.
There are certain things you can do to help determine if you have OCD, though. In fact, most people first diagnose themselves with OCD before officially being diagnosed by a medical professional. Many people who think they may be suffering from OCD end up doing their own research, like you are now, to determine if there is a medical reason for the things they are feeling. Most OCD sufferers feel alone until they read or witness the story of someone who is going through the same things they are. No longer do they feel like they are “losing their mind” or “going crazy.”
Many people hesitate to get medical help for their OCD due to guilt or shame. Even once people discover that it is a treatable illness, like having a cold or the flu, many hesitate to seek help. Much of the time the symptoms of OCD can cause people to act in such bizarre and private ways it is difficult to speak about them to a stranger.
A helpful device to reduce shame of sharing this very sensitive information is a checklist of OCD behaviors that can be filled out ahead of time. Many patients take this route and bring a completed questionnaire to their doctor to begin the treatment process.
Living with OCD is similar to living with other types of illnesses. Like diabetes, asthma or heart disease, it requires courage, support from other people and medical help to overcome. The focus on conquering OCD should be on management and relief of everyday symptoms rather than a final cure. This doesn’t mean giving up hope, though. People who suffer from OCD need to become experts on their own condition. This means knowing what actions, events, and items trigger their compulsions and doing what they can to avoid those triggers. This also means learning coping strategies for those times triggers cannot be avoided all together. Coping with stress and stigma are the two primary concerns of an OCD sufferer. Stress often triggers symptoms of OCD and having a mental illness can cause alienation in the community. Learning how to handle these issues is the biggest hurdle for someone with OCD.