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What Is OCD Being OCD

Updated on December 11, 2013

You hear people say, “I’m just being OCD” or “I’m OCD” but are they really? Having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is no laughing matter. Unless you’ve had a diagnosis by a psychiatrist or psychologist you probably do not have OCD.

Being neat, tidy and wanting things in order is not OCD

Yes, being obsessive about order and symmetry is a symptom but only a small portion of the big picture. When I say order and symmetry that doesn’t necessarily mean cleanliness.

Not all OCD sufferers are clean freaks, nor do they all have the same quirks and rules. We all have different symptoms; I will list a sample to give you an idea of what “real” OCD is like.

I will share with you some symptoms of OCD, some are mine, and some are people I know who also suffer with this disorder. This article doesn’t cover every symptom; there are many obsessions, compulsions, rituals and rules OCD sufferers have. There are books on the subject if you would like to read further.

Cleaning too much

Unless you have suffered while cleaning you do not have OCD. I should clarify this and say those with a cleaning obsession. Not all OCD people have to clean.

We don’t just clean: we rub away the top layer of Formica. We dismantle the stovetop; take it down to the car wash and power scrub it until it doesn’t work anymore.

We scrape and scour the grout until it has to be regrouted.

Rubber gloves, cleaning products and scouring pads are bought in gross. We clean until our knuckles bleed.

Until you have stayed up all night cleaning the same thing over and over again because you didn’t wipe in the proper order, (you may have ran your cloth in a counter clockwise direction once instead of always going clock wise) you do not have OCD. We clean until it feels right, both physically and mentally.

Compared to OCD a drill sergeant seems like a doting grandmother.

We pick our cuticles until they bleed because we can’t stand to have something not smooth. It doesn’t feel right.

Lint pickers will clean the slubs from their clothing until they are threadbare.

A psychological red flag

One thing all OCD people say is, “It didn’t feel right.” We don’t mean a physical feeling; we are talking about a mental feeling.

Simply rechecking to see if you locked your door is not OCD.

The door wasn’t locked in the proper order so you have to redo it making sure to touch the doorframe the magic amount of times. Clicking the lock so it makes the right sound. Walking the correct amount of steps to the door prior to locking. Perhaps clicking your tongue to the roof of your mouth in rhythm with counting, turning the lock and tapping your toe on the floor all in perfect motion.

Are you getting the drift yet?

Unless your habits sound “crazy” you do not have it.

The thing is, we who really do have OCD know what we do is weird and not normal but we can’t stop. Many of the things that go on inside our heads will never be told to most people because you won’t understand and in many cases we’d be outcast.

Watch the television show Monk to get a good idea of what we go through. His quirks and rituals are public but in real life that stuff is kept very, very private.

Most of OCD is internal.

Counting, mantras and touching

We count. Most love even numbers but I’m strange and like odd numbers. There is symmetry in odds: three has a pillar on each side; five has two pillars on each side. We see this in our mind.

Phrases get stuck in my head, it helps keep out the bad thoughts. Those horrible negative, painful thoughts that kill us a little bit inside.

I tap out and count word syllables on my knee with my fingers or my tongue to the back of my teeth.

Bad thoughts

What could be that bad, you ask? Normal people worry about loved one’s safety. They might wring their hands and think about them from time to time. They could get in an accident or get sick.

OCD sufferers enact a disaster in our minds. We see the car crash, hear the two vehicles hit. We see the blood, paramedics and mangled metal. The policeman really comes to our door and tells us the inevitable. We mourn, grieve and cry… many, many tears and we call.

Anyone married to an OCD sufferer is a saint, by the way.

In the old days it was easier, we could call and after hearing their safe voice we could hang up. Now days with caller ID that’s not so easy so we have to calm our voice from all the crying before calling and pretend it’s for another reason because constantly calling to see if they are okay is crazy. Right? We know what crazy is; it lives with us.

When they notice the nasally voice we say, “Oh, my allergies are acting up.”

YES, we know it’s not normal, we know we should stop but it’s hard.


Yes they have drugs that help…sometimes. The problem is the side effects are often times worse then living with our weirdness, which is familiar to us. No drugs take away all the quirks anyway.

Here are a few of the side effects:

Weight gain

Loss of sex drive




Electric light show behind our eyelids

Severe headaches

Muscle twitching

Support groups

Nothing like a good support group to make you feel normal or at least closer to it than you were before the meeting. No matter how crazy our own symptoms seem when compared to others we seem to feel not so out of balance.

Also you feel relief, “I’m not the only one doing stupid crap.” Their stupid crap is different but just as weird and comforting to know you are not alone.

It’s not easy in the beginning and at first I mostly listened and didn’t “share.” Even among fellow crazies we aren’t so comfortable sharing all our quirks.

Behavior modification

I have learned over the years to tell myself to, “Knock it off!”

Sure, I still have those negative thoughts and I even sometimes start to go into melt down mode but before I can take it too far I make myself stop.

One thing that helped me a great deal (I came up with this on my own) was to go further with my negative thoughts. In the past I was so exhausted after the episode I couldn’t do much else afterward.

I would get to the grieving part and would have a big cry but didn’t move past that. What I mean by that is this:

If you suffer from this same type of OCD it is a form of fear, fear of losing that person, your job, your child or whatever your negative thoughts are about.

Move to the next level. If you lost those people or your job what would happen next? What would you do? How do you resolve this situation and move on? In other words get past the grieving stage and move onto the resolution stage.

This helped me tremendously and perhaps it will help you to. When these thoughts come into my mind, I fast forward with my mental remote to the next frame and that’s how I get through it.

If I lose my husband I’ll do this, this and this. If I lose my child, this is how I’ll deal with it. If I lose my job these are my options. See how it works? It is still painful but I guarantee you it is easier.

This may even work for other obsessive thoughts and compulsions, give it a try and see if you can work out a solution in your mind.

Taking care of my own mental health

I haven’t seen a psychiatrist or psychologist in years nor have I been on medication. Support groups aren’t my thing although they did help at the time.

Research, education and figuring out my own psyche has helped. I still count, have obsessions, pick my cuticles (mostly not making them bleed) and fighting with negative thoughts is an ongoing battle but I take it one day at a time and most of the time---I win.


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    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma

      I hate to tell you this, Cardisa but it sounds like OCD to me. Try to work the disaster all the way through to the end. It's painful but if you can do that then you get to the resolving part. What will you do if that happens?

      If nothing else it makes us closer to our loved ones because we know how precious life is.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      4 years ago from Jamaica

      I have the exact cuticle thing you mentioned. I can't stand it if it's not smooth. Mine often bleed because I have to remove them. If I am not near my nippers I pull it out even if it hurts. I never thought it was OCD.

      The disaster part has been happening more frequently and I have to reprimand myself to not think it through. I see bad things especially with my mom and fiance. Sometimes he's on the road and I start to see things/him being hit by a car, or his bicycle out of control. I picture getting the news that he's get the picture.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Pamela - This topic is near and dear to my heart, and you wrote simply but with great feeling. I guess we all have our demons, and we try so hard. You certainly have my prayers for further success. Your article begs for what I always say. It's time for fun. Okie Audrey.aka brakel2 with hugs

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Sorry, Parks. I just wanted people to realize how serious this disorder is and that it's no laughing matter.

    • Parks McCants profile image

      Parks McCants 

      6 years ago from Eugene Oregon U.S.A.

      Wow! An extremely powerful article. I found it a bit painful to read. Thank you.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Denise, I have emery boards and fingernail clippers all over the house and in my purse. Gotta keep things smooth. :o)

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for the understanding. It is nice to know that I am not the only one with these issues! I pick my cuticles because I like them smooth. Nowdays, I keep a clipper and nail file in my purse and no matter where I am, I clip them when they bother me, then I can let go of it! May God bless you!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great informational hub on OCD to help everyone understand what OCD is and how someone who has it cope with it day to day. I'm glad you take one day at a time,and happy to hear you win most times.

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Cloverleaf, I prefer behavior modification to drugs too. Pharmaceuticals are so harsh and can cause other problems we don't need. It can be a challenge but if you work at it you can overcome the big issues.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 

      6 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      I have it, my son has it, and my granddaughter. All have different aspects, but the "cleaning" seems to be one of the biggest "themes" amongst all three of us. I didn't realize what it was when my son was younger. I see it now, but even back then, I never realized what it was. I only figured it out within the past 5-10 years. It can cause great anxiety, and is not always fun to live with. I will say however, it can be controlled through behavior modification, no drugs, but you have to want to help it.

      Honestly, I have never been "diagnosed", but I don't need a paper to tell me what I already know.

      Great information, and I enjoyed reading it. Up +

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Twilight, that is what a good friend of mine did. She had the cleaning bug worse than I do.

      Sunshine, I don't think most people realize all that is involved with OCD. I hope this article will help some.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I stopped saying I must be OCD a few years ago when a good friend was DX'ed. It's been a heck of a road for her, but she finally got the right help. Your hub will hopefully help someone (hopefully many) get the help they need.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Hi, Pamela. It's a long time since we crossed paths.

      I remember you saying when you read my hubs on OCD that you were a cleaning OCDer.

      I loved your comment about "We dismantle the stovetop; take it down to the car wash and power scrub it until it doesn’t work anymore."

      So funny. Voted up etc.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      So you are a saintly frog. :o)

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 

      6 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Pamela - Excellent work. I won't comment too much because I was with one for quite some time.

      The Frog

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks, Phoenix. It is very different to be on the inside than to simply be a clinician observing symptoms.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I think your hub has done more in helping me understand OCD better than all the other articles I've read in the past. It must be because it's coming from someone who has actually experienced it rather than from professionals who have observed OCD patients.

      Voted Up, interesting, awesome and useful. Socially shared.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Yes, I have tried many different medications and they had the above side effects and didn't help enough to warrant taking them. I prefer to use behavior modification.

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 

      6 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      All of this stems from an inbalance in neurotransmitters and usually a SSRI will help. If it doesn't help, the dosage should be adjusted or another one can be tried. I know it's a long drawn out process but it does wonders for many people, when their neurotransmitters are back to normal.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      Pamela-You did an excellent job writing about this disorder. I am sorry you have this as it sounds very exhausting. I appreciate you sharing your experience with us as It gives your article more credibility. Did you ever take medication and it didn't seem worth it to you?

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Writer, thank goodness you are normal too. I wouldn't wish this disorder on anyone.

      Fpher, a good sense of humor has gotten me this far in life.

      True, Martie, although I think they are related. Kind of like hoarding is a form of OCD. People with Asperger's have obsessions and are sometimes misdiagnosed too. Thanks for reading.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Well-presented informative hub about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. People often confuse OCD with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).

      Voted up and excellent :)

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Pa.....Good. I am glad to know this. My personality deals with just about anything (except tragedy, of course) with a big helping of humor. However, it's always surprised me how many people can't appreciate this. Now that you bring my attention to it....that's true, no one makes fun of Monk. I couldn't agree with you more about a "sense of humor." I say this all the time.....if we couldn't laugh at ourselves, we'd all be in padded rooms!! LOL.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Fpher, I love that show, Monk. I think they did a great job showing the pain and problems he endures dealing with the disorder. What makes it work is that no one on the show makes fun of him.

      We have to have a good sense of humor about it or we would be even more crazy.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      6 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Thank goodness I'm normal. Reading your hub reminds of the show called Monk.

      Voted up useful and interesting, Joyce.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Pamela. You have presented such a clear and factual explanation of true OCD and I thank you. Never again will I "flippantly" use the term to describe someone (even in jest). I certainly would never mean to be unfeeling or inconsiderate of someone who suffers in this way. In fact, you mention "Monk" and I'm wondering how they get away with putting a comedy spin on this disorder?

      You have inspired me to do some research so that I can further my knowledge on OCD. I admire your own journey in helping yourself and doing all you can to handle this and improve your daily life. Bless you.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Sher, it seems to be the disorder of the moment and everyone has it. I'd gladly share if I could but unfortunately we get to keep this fun all to ourselves. Thanks for reading.

      Spirit, they've tried many things over the years including lobotomy and shock therapy.

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      6 years ago from Isle of Man

      Another great hub. You have described the condition clearly and as it is written from such an empathetic standpoint your own personal experience gives this hub a lot of credibility. OCD is a common symptom presented by many of of the clients I have effectively treated using a combination of hypnosis and psychotherapy.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm so glad you wrote this. One of my biggest pet peeves is listening to someone say they are "a little OCD," or tell me they have OCD, when of course they don't.

      As someone who's been diagnosed for 20 years now, I really appreciate good, solid information about the disorder.

      Good job!

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks for reading, Bill.

      Flora, the cat fur thing would make me crazy, I couldn't do that. It's why I have a dog and not a cat. Can't have an animal that puts it feet where I prepare food. The negative thoughts are usually irrational but it's possible you could have it. Only a psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose you.

    • profile image

      Flora Breen Robison 

      6 years ago

      Regarding the cleaning-if I were OCD with a cleaning frenzy, I would be in serious trouble because with a cat I have to live with the fact that my house and clothing will be covered in fur-always. I have even found fur in my food after she walks over to me and rubs up against me while I'm eating-she gets up on the table. Perhaps if she were not old, I wouldn't allow this, but she is and as aresult I let her get awawy with most anything.

      I do indeed have death scenerios going through my mind about my parents and my cat. But they did not happen until my parents got in their sixties with their bodies breaking down and my vet told me my cat was elderly. Kind of like my fear of heights with no railings isn't a phobia because I have bad balance and cannot rely on the right side of my body if I fall (phobias are irrational and it is not irrational for me to fear with my bad balance). Dad is 69 and has COPD. Mom has quite advanced arthritis and her bones could break very easily in ways that would simply give me a bad bruise for a week.

      My grandfather was OCD about his sides of his body being equal. For example, when he was out hunting and spun around at the sound of an animal, no matter waht the animal was (i.e danger, no danger) he would have to spin around the other way. So that his sides were equal. He did this all the time.

      I do this to a certain extent. Not like he did though, so again not OCD.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Fascinating read. I have several friends who have this condition and so I know a bit about it. It was interesting reading about your own personal thoughts on it and I applaud you for bringing this out into the light of day in hopes of helping others.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      LadyFiddler, hoarders are another form of it. There are many, many symptoms and all different. It's not easy but can be dealt with.

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 

      6 years ago from On planet Earth

      Hmm OCD is a hell of a sickness to have a sort or madness I'd say especially hoarders or people who wants to be extremely clean always bathing or scrubbing their skin. That's torment and torture. I read an OCD book by the name of Unlocking the Brain it had some pretty interesting OCD cases.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      RHW, most of OCD is internal so unless your daughter goes through testing you won't know for sure. They gave me a stack of papers full of questions to answer. It tends to be hereditary but not always, my dad had it and I've passed it down to my oldest son.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I did know about the symbolic behavior ... Or doing things exactly the same way. I have joked before and said I wish I was OCD so my houses oils be cleaner...but really I wouldn't want to deal with it. I'm sorry:). You explained this so well. I think being able to know what it is that causes it must be a huge help. I know so many people with this - and I have one daughter with tendencies - her doc and I have discussed it and a plan if things get worse. I read about it a lot so I can try to know how to understand better. This really helped me a lot and I appreciate the info:). Thank you!

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks, Debbie, I'll add her book to my reading list.

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 

      6 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      Great hub! I just read a great book about a teen with OCD, written by my new American friend living in Colombia also, Heidi Ayarbe. The book title is "COMPULSION". It's a easy read and sheds light into the world of a person with OCD.


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