OCD is a Treatable Medical Condition
What Is OCD?

How To Recognize OCD

Almost everyone has experienced worries, doubts or fears at one time or another, or has had an occasional intrusive thought.  It’s natural to sometimes worry about life matters such as one’s health or the well-being of someone you love, paying bills or what the future will bring.  It’s not even abnormal if you have had an intrusive “bad” thought about someone who has upset you.  That’s not OCD.

OCD is diagnosed when obsessions and compulsions

  • Consume excessive amounts of time (an hour or more each day)
  • Cause significant distress
  • Interfere with daily functioning at work or school, or with social activities, family relationships and/or normal routines.

OCD is characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions (physical acts or mental rituals) that are difficult to suppress and take a considerable amount of time and energy away from living your life, enjoying your family and friends or even doing your job.

When OCD symptoms are present, it would be wise to consult a mental health professional who is knowledgeable about OCD for evaluation and treatment.

What are the Symptoms of OCD?

One of the best ways to understand OCD is to learn how obsessions and compulsions are linked in OCD behavior.  Think of the obsession as an unwanted recurring thought, and the compulsion as a visible symptom (which makes the OCD sufferer feel better temporarily).  A few examples are:

  • An obsessive fear of contamination can result in compulsive hand washing, body washing, or housecleaning; avoiding touching others or shaking hands; avoiding public places.
  • An excessive dread of uncertainty or an obsessive fear of causing harm (to oneself or others) may result in compulsive checking that doors or windows are locked or household appliances are turned off.  Other compulsions may include repeatedly checking to see if a child is still breathing during the night.
  • An obsessive fear of loss (or losing something important) may result in compulsive hoarding of various objects.
  • An obsessive fear of violating religious rules or sinning may result in a compulsive preoccupation with religious observances or praying.  This is called Scrupulosity.  A person with this condition may be obsessed with prayer repetition to get the wording “perfect” and may be overwhelmed with worry that he or she has offended God.
  • An obsessive need for symmetry may result in a compulsive need to constantly “even up” or arrange objects.
  • An obsessive need for perfection may result in compulsively seeking reassurance or compulsive revisions so things are “just right”.

Symptoms of OCD can differ based on the individual and a variety of situations. Adults or children may have other symptoms not mentioned above, and they also differ in how they try to cope with OCD—so the visible and mental compulsions can differ.  The majority of people with OCD are able to function reasonably well, and friends or co-workers may not even suspect there is a problem.  But when symptoms escalate to the point of disability—excessive time lost from work,  inability to work, a student who normally receives good grades in school suddenly receives poor grades, uncontrollable fear and anxiety severely straining a relationship—it’s time to get help.

Postpartum OCD (PPOCD)

An estimated two to three percent of new mothers experience postpartum OCD (PPOCD).  With this disorder a woman may have obsessive intrusive thoughts about her baby’s safety.  Symptoms include such activities as:

  • excessively washing or sterilizing baby bottles
  • excessive washing of baby clothing, or washing other family members’ clothing repeatedly
  • isolating the baby to keep family members or others from “contaminating” the baby
  • constantly checking on the baby
  • persistent fears of harming the baby

Everyone from family members to friends expects a new mother to be joyful.  But society doesn’t realize that PPOCD can leave a new mother devastated and exhausted.  Untreated PPOCD can negatively impact a mother’s ability to care for her child and can severely strain her marriage, friendships and other relationships.

Effective individualized treatment is available, and can enable a new mom to manage PPOCD.  Butler Hospital offers more information on PPOCD (see link below).


More information for adults

Get an expert’s perspective on postpartum OCD

More information on postpartum OCD (PPOCD)

Information for parents about OCD in children

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