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OCD: It's Not Just Cleanliness

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a common mental illness, thought to affect at least 1% of the population. People experiencing OCD will have obsessions, compulsions, or both.


Obsessions are thoughts. What happens in OCD is the brain does not properly sort through thoughts to decide what is important. They are also called intrusive thoughts. The difference between a person with these obsessions and a person without is this; for example, take the thought of getting into a car crash. A person without OCD might think this thought, but decide that it is unlikely to happen, and decide that the thought is overall unimportant, people go in cars every day. A person with OCD however, might become fixated on this thought, and become very much disturbed and distracted by it. They may have a greater than usual fear or certainty of the event happening, even though it is unlikely.

Common obsessions include, but are not limited to;

  • worries about contamination and germs

  • worries about hurting oneself or others

  • worries about sex or religion

**These are only a few of the common ones. There are many, many others that people may experience.


Compulsions are actions a person with OCD does and can also be called rituals. Oftentimes, these actions work to negate the thoughts, or obsessions, but not always. Many different things can be compulsions, and they may be visible to those around them, but they also may take place in one’s mind, and are invisible to others. In the same example from earlier, someone with OCD may count all the street lamps they pass, or click and unclick their seatbelt a certain number of times, to help them reduce the fear about getting into a car crash.

Common compulsions include, but are not limited to;

  • Cleaning and handwashing

  • Counting and checking

  • Having things in a certain order

**These are only a few of the common ones. There are many, many others that people may experience.

In a person with OCD, their symptoms can take up many hours of their day. They can cause significant distress, and even create challenges such as missing school, trouble maintaining friendships, and taking much longer to get ready than usual.

People with OCD many times have other conditions such as anxiety, depression, Tourette syndrome, or autism.

In the case of severe Obsessive compulsive disorder developing overnight, PANDAS should be considered.

There are many types/subsets of OCD, defined by the types of obsessions and/or compulsions that a person experiences. One subset of OCD are body focused repetitive behaviors, or BFRBs, which include trichotillomania, or hair pulling disorder

OCD Treatment:

Treatment can include therapy including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and exposure and response therapy (ERP). Medications can also be used in some cases. People with OCD may find relief in using meditation and relaxation techniques.

Someone dealing with obsessions and compulsions are not able to control it. The thoughts come into their head without them trying to think them, and they cannot get them to go away. It is hard for them to just not do their compulsions either. Not doing a compulsion leads to intense and overwhelming feelings of distress.

People with OCD may have thoughts that go against what they believe in. they may feel ashamed for thinking the things they do, or be afraid that they will act on something they don’t want to. My message for anyone with OCD is this; you are not your thoughts. You are not a bad person. And your OCD doesn’t define you as a person. You are not alone.


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