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Common Quirks vs. OCD Obsessions

Updated on May 13, 2013
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It is only a matter of time before everyone with OCD runs into an argument – with someone who does not have OCD – along these lines: “Everyone obsesses over certain things. I obsess over things the same way you do. We all have our pet worries. Get over it.” Yes, we all have our pet worries. Yes, we all to a certain extent have compulsions caused by these worries. Yes, we all drive each other crazy with the stupid little things we do. But there is an enormous difference between common quirks and OCD obsessions.

Pretty much every adult has a similar nighttime routine: Shut the lights off; make sure the doors are locked; make sure the stove is turned off, things like that. Even people who don’t have OCD check these things multiple times just from a safety standpoint. However, you know it’s an OCD obsession when spend hours every night checking again and again to see if you really did lock the doors or shut off the stove.

OCD or not, there are going to be times when you break your routine either because you’re tired or because you simply forgot. Have you ever been lying in bed and then suddenly wondered if you locked the front door? If you worry about this simply because it’s your own personal quirk you will probably just say “Oh, well!”, and then roll over and go to sleep. Or else you may get up, check once and then go back to bed. On the other hand, a person with OCD will start thinking about all the terrible things that may happen if he or she does not get up to check the door. Rolling over and going back to sleep is not a possibility. Someone without OCD would say “So just get up and check it!”. More than likely the person with OCD will do this. But his or her night is ruined because this person will not be able to check the lock just one time. Even if the OCD sufferer is lucky and only has to check once, the night is still shot because that person’s routine (basically that person’s compulsion) has been broken.

 
Someone with OCD
Someone who is quirky
You worry about things (such as locking doors) from a safety standpoint
Yes
Yes
Your worries can sometimes be irrational
Yes
Yes
Your worries may ALWAYS be irrational
Yes
No
A busy day may interrupt your routine, but that's alright because life will go on
No
Yes
You could "get over" your strange obsessions, compulsions, or quirks if someone asked you to (even if it hurt your pride)
No
Yes

I have OCD. Before it was treated properly I worried about everything from germs to whether or not I did anything that would harm someone. I worry about some of these things to this day. However there is a big difference between my obsessions and my own personal quirks. It is my OCD which keeps me from going to bed each night unless I have first checked if the burners on the stove are off. However, my OCD has nothing to do with the weird quirk I have that keeps me from opening the door anytime a FedEx or UPS deliveryman comes to my house. I always make him leave the package outside and hope that I don’t have to sign for it. It’s not because I’m worried he’s going to suddenly turn into a mad ax man or that I would do something embarrassing or hurtful in front of him. I just don’t like opening the door to deliverymen. This is just one of my quirks. And the way I know this has nothing to do with my OCD is that if my Mom ever said “For gosh sake, would you just open the door!”, I would get mad at her, but I would do as she asked and then get over it. If she asked me to do something along these lines about my OCD worries, I would collapse in hysterics and not be able to do it.

It all comes down to the textbook definition of OCD: the person is plagued by obsessive, irrational thoughts that won’t go away. Someone who is quirky has a choice. Someone with OCD does not.

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