What Is OCD Really Like?

By Staff Writers

What is OCD? OCD is an acronym for Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

What Does OCD Mean? OCD refers to a disorder in which an individual has repeated intrusive thoughts that cause them to do certain actions compulsively. This behavioral disorder induces distress and sometimes impairs general function. As you probably deduced already from the name, OCD’s major symptoms are obsessions and compulsions

Obsessions are frequent and constant unwanted thoughts or urges that make people feel anxious, disgusted, or uncomfortable. Examples of obsessions include disturbing thoughts about sex, religion, or self-harm. Some people have obsessions with hygiene or symmetry.

Warning Signs of OCD

There are a few signs that are considered to be common in children who may have OCD. At times, these signs may seem normal but if observed carefully, OCD children show these signs differently. Some of these signs include;

  • Constantly wanting reassurance from people.
  • Showing resistance to all kinds of change
  • Taking too long on tasks, eating, or getting dressed. Children with OCD take a longer time completing tasks than other children of their age.
  • Children with OCD also tend to redo a completed task over and over again.
  • Those who have an obsession with contamination tend to refuse to touch surfaces or objects without gloves or some sort of protection.
  • If they have a contamination obsession, you may find them washing parts of their body too often.
  • Obsession with numeric patterns is also a warning sign of OCD.
  • If a person always gets extremely worried when they are unable to continue or finish a task, it is a warning sign of OCD

At What Age Does OCD Appear?

The general claim is that OCD starts at an early age but may take a while to identify. According to Steven J. Brodsky, OCD can start between preschool age through adulthood. He stated that most of the time OCD occurs when a person is still quite young. They can also be a person’s late teens and early adulthood.

Charles H. Eliot and Laura L. Smith also said the most common age of onset is 7 years and may include infants. Many people think it developed later, but it’s a case of identifying it late. Some assume that their OCD is gone. In reality, it is a result of a change in their circumstances, routines, attitudes, and triggers. When the circumstances change again, the OCD will resurface.

  • On average, there is a 12 year delay between the onset of OCD and treatment being received. 
  • According to the research, 75% of those who receive treatment for OCD find it beneficial.

Symptoms Of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

What are OCD symptoms?

Although there is still a need for research to be carried out on how to treat OCD and how to categorize the symptoms, for this article, we will be grouping OCD symptoms into 4 categories. Symmetry Factor, Forbidden Thinking Factor, Cleaning Factor, and Hoarding Factor. 

Symmetry factors correlate with ordering, counting, symmetry obsession, and repetition compulsion. The forbidden thought factor correlates with disturbing and distressing thoughts about violence, religion, or sex. The cleaning factor correlates with fear of contamination and an obsession with cleaning while hoarding factors include only obsessions that have to do with hoarding things. They are usually separated and considered to be different from other symptom groups.

In summary, a person who has OCD would have:

  • An obsession or compulsion that takes a long time, causes severe emotional distress, and interferes with daily life.
  • Feeling of powerlessness when trying to control the urge to think about or exercise your obsessions.
  • Your obsessions and compulsions are not caused by other medical conditions such as an eating disorder or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Test yourself for OCD

Types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Although there is no specific way to classify OCD, there are some reoccurring themes. This article categorizes OCD types based on general themes related to the disorder.

  • Checking

One of the most popular symptoms of OCD is the uncontrollable urge to check things. People with this type of OCD may feel an uncontrollable urge to check if devices are off or if doors and windows are closed.

Compulsive checking can be attributed to overthinking, anxiety, and a fear of not being in control all the time.

  • Order or Symmetry

People with OCD may exhibit an obsession with order, keeping things uniform, or numbering. A person with this kind of OCD may exhibit symptoms such as; repeating a process of placing things over each other, changing the arrangement of furniture to make it look better, or taking a count of things to ensure that they are evenly placed.

A person like this may become too obsessed with their body proportions. This may lead to low self-esteem in their physical appearance.

  • Germs or Contamination

Fear of getting contaminated is another common type of OCD. A person with this type of OCD may repeatedly clean places and even body parts (like their hands and faces). They may worry excessively about the kinds of ingredients in dishes or a kind of cleaning. Some go as far as not touching others or things that other people have touched.

  • Rumination or Intrusive Thoughts

Rumination is a type of OCD that refers to uncontrollable thinking. In cases like this, a person may obsess over topics that are usually referred to as forbidden topics. Topics as related to violence, sexuality, or religion.

For instance, they may obsess over their sexual identity or their religious beliefs all the time.

What Causes OCD?

The causes of OCD are not completely understood, but they have been proven to be related to certain things such as drugs, environment, genetics

  • Drug-induced OCD

Some medications are undoubted to be contributing factors to why people develop OCD. Drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine can cause OCD in a person who had no previous symptoms.

  • Brain structure and functioning

Several studies show that there are differences in the brains of people with OCD. These studies show that there is a relationship between OCD symptoms and abnormalities in parts of the brain. Some people with OCD do not have full control of the parts of their brain that deals with emotions and memory.

  • Environment

Another cause of OCD is bully, abuse, or neglect. OCD could after a person has experienced a major life-changing event or a loss of a dear one. Several studies have reiterated that OCD can be triggered by a traumatic experience as a child. However, there is a need for more research to be done on this claim.

  • Genetics

Studies in the field of genetics prove that anxiety runs in families. There is a tendency for a person who has OCD to have a relative who has a type of OCD too. A review in 2001 showed that people with OCD are 4 times more likely to have a relative with the disorder than a person without the disorder.


Although there is a need to improve the awareness of OCD in communities around the world, it is also necessary to discuss the popular misconceptions about OCD.

People tend to refer to behaviors that are not in any way related to OCD as OCD. For instance, obsessions that are only brief and are not a cause of distress or anxiety should not be referred to as OCD. OCD on the other hand is capable of leaving a person confused or in an uncontrollable state o anxiety for hours at a time.

Also, people who love to collect items such as stamps, coins, books, movie items, and so on should not be described as OCD patients. Unlike OCD patients, collectors derive pleasure from the process of collecting the items. They are also usually excited to show people their collections and talk about them. OCD patients who hoard things are known to collect worthless things and do it because of the fear of harming themselves if they don’t hoard those objects.

Finally, compulsive liars, gamblers, shoppers, or sexaholics do not have OCD. They are simply addicts who are said to have Impulse Control Disorders.

Here Is How To Stop OCD Thoughts

In this section, we will be answering the question of how to stop OCD thoughts and how to get rid of OCD. Here are ways to get rid of OCD thoughts

  1. Speak with a mental health professional: Speaking with a professional therapist is an effective way to deal with your compulsions. Professionals are trained to help you overcome OCD. Taking to the bold step to speak not just with someone but with a professional is a huge step in the right direction.
  2.  Meet your OCD halfway by confronting the thoughts but not fulfilling the compulsions.
  3. Find productive distractions for yourself: such as taking cold baths, writing journals, or listening to music.
  4. Daily exercises: Daily exercises are a proven way to reduce anxiety and improve your mood. This can help you control and reduce the thoughts and feelings you are having.
  5. Read on the disorder. There are several articles by professionals on how to stop OCD and how to deal with OCD. Reading more about OCD may help you find ways to stop having obsessive thoughts and put an end to any compulsive behavior you have.
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