When does checking that the stove is turned off indicate a problem? When does being “neat and orderly” become an issue? When is washing your hands not a sign of good hygiene? When these behaviors—and others—become repetitive to the point of disrupting daily life, then you might have an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder. It involves an obsession, or a recurrent, unwanted thought or impulse that creates stress or anxiety. The compulsion is a ritual, repeated behavior that temporarily alleviates the anxiety. The obsession and compulsion set up an endless cycle that can be difficult to derail without professional assistance.
Many compulsive behaviors are rooted in good habits. The problem is that for a person with OCD, the behavior takes control over you. Some examples of compulsive behaviors include:
It may be true that a clean home is a happy home, but when a person is debilitated by a fear of germs and ends up spending hours every day washing their hands or scouring the house, cleaning has become an unhealthy compulsive behavior.
It’s smart to check the house before setting out on vacation. Did you turn the stove off? Even Santa checks his list twice! But if you feel compelled to check that the door is locked three or four times every time you leave the house, your concern is more than safety. When double-checking isn’t enough, it’s a signal that your behavior could be compulsive.
Living an orderly life can be commendable. A tidy home can relieve the stress caused by a cluttered environment: a place for everything and everything in its place. But when a small detail is out of order, people with OCD will obsess over the item until it is put back in its place. They can spend hours trying to achieve perfect symmetry in their environment.
When you feel like your ritual behaviors are controlling your life rather than your being in control, you don’t need to resign yourself to a life of compulsive actions. Medications and therapy can help you regain control over your daily life.
Contact Saginaw Psychiatry to schedule an appointment and begin changing your life.