Everything you’re too scared to ask somebody with OCD

All of these questions are genuine and real. Most are from people who don’t suffer with OCD, but some are from OCD sufferers. I hope this is helpful.

What is a compulsion and what kind of fear comes from them? A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought. The fear that comes from a compulsion can be the fear that, without performing the compulsion, you will cause harm to yourself or others, or you will feel this awful shame and sadness for the rest of your life.

Why are you so scared? Because every fibre of my being is telling me that if I don’t listen to my OCD this awful thing is going to happen and it will all be my fault for not listening. I will have caused all that chaos and harm to myself or others.

What are your current compulsions? I currently have to repeat actions if I have an unwanted thought, often stepping backwards or tapping if I’m walking. I have to wash my hands 10-30 times a day and avoid touching anything that could trigger my OCD.

Can you have symptoms of OCD and not be diagnosed? Unwanted thoughts are common and don’t immediately point to a diagnosis of OCD. It is perfectly normal to have fleeting thoughts about what could happen if I did this awful thing or what if this happens? The thing that sets OCD symptoms away from these is the amount of stress and fear they bring to the sufferer. The obsessions are usually coupled with compulsions. But it is possible to suffer from obsessions without performing compulsions. This is known as Purely Obsessional OCD, often referred to as Pure O.

I have OCD and I get unwanted sexual thoughts. Am I the only one? You are not alone in this. It is extremely common. Studies have found that as many as a quarter of OCD patients have had a history of sexual obsessions. These numbers may be an underestimate of the actual number of people suffering from unwanted sexual obsessions because the stigma associated with sexual thoughts may cause individuals to avoid reporting their obsessions.

How does OCD show itself? OCD can be a totally silent illness, as the sufferer can be an expert at keeping the obsessions and compulsions totally hidden. The obsessions are extremely difficult to notice, as they are happening in the sufferers mind. You might want to look for sudden silence, uneasiness, impatient behaviour or difficulty concentrating. Compulsions can be where OCD commonly shows itself, but sufferers can often disguise the compulsions as ordinary tasks. I know I often make excuses for repeating actions, like I forgot something or am having a moment of thinking I don’t need something and then remembering I do need it if I’m trying to repeat an action.

What is the thought process of OCD? The OCD cycle usually starts with an unwanted belief or thought e.g. I might have killed somebody and can’t remember it or I might have come into contact with a disease. This usually is coupled with an obsession e.g. I should’t leave the house in case I hurt somebody or I should wash my hands five times to make sure I’m clean. This usually can temporarily relive the stress or fear but because you have reinforced the belief that this compulsion prevents the unwanted consequence, you get trapped in a cycle of performing the compulsions after each obsession.

Have you ever not done the thing that your OCD tells you to do or something bad will happen? What happened? I’ve had CBT = cognitive behavioural therapy for OCD in the past which is based upon exposure therapy. This can be in the form of systematic desensitisation or flooding. Systematic desensitisation occurs when you create a hierarchy of fears and start with the least feared and work your way to the most feared. Flooding occurs when you are exposed to the most feared situation immediately. I took part in systematic desensitisation, so was exposed to feared situations gradually. This involved having to ignore the OCD thoughts and not performing compulsions. It caused extreme anxiety and stress and I would often have panic attacks. I would usually have to perform compulsions later to make up for it, which is not a great way to deal with the OCD at all.

What does your OCD hate? My OCD hates feeling guilt or shame of any kind.

Can extreme perfectionism be a symptom of OCD? 100% it can. I think people often confuse the two and see perfectionism as OCD in itself and every perfectionist has OCD. If it is causing significant stress and interfering with your ability to function, then it could 100% be a symptom. You would have to find the root fear to start targeting e.g. if my work isn’t perfect I will harm somebody or I will disappoint my entire family. It can easily accelerate to more intense fears. I think my OCD began as a need to be perfect.

I feel like people with OCD won’t say what sort of compulsions they struggle with. This can be true. The problem is, the obsessions and compulsions that a sufferer deals with can make them feel incredibly guilty and there is so much stigmas attached to them. Compulsions involve abnormal behaviour and that can be difficult to discuss. OCD sufferers are often ashamed of their behaviour as they are aware how irrational it is. The most important thing when talking to somebody about their compulsions is to be comforting and to understand how uncomfortable they may be feeling. It is important to remember the lack of control they have.

Does everyone who suffers with OCD have germ related compulsions or fears? Not in the slightest. Common OCD obsessions and compulsions involve unwanted thoughts about harming somebody, compulsive checking, tapping to keep yourself or others safe. I don’t have an irrational fear of germs, but I still suffer with OCD. People with OCD may suffer with germ related compulsions or fears, but it is common for OCD sufferers to have no irrational thoughts towards germs.

What is the difference between OCD and OCPD? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder are two different things. OCPD is a personality disorder whist OCD is a mental disorder. People with OCPD have a preoccupation with neatness, perfection and order. OCPD lacks the presence of obsessions and compulsions, but can still negatively impact the sufferers life.

Do you sometimes forget it is a compulsion and integrate it into your life? Yes. I’ve struggled with OCD for so long that it is simple to forget that certain parts of my routine are triggered by my OCD. There are rules that I’ve followed for so long I forget that a life without them ever existed and I can sometimes automatically perform compulsions when experiencing stress.

Did you ever worry that you didn’t really have OCD and were just making it up in your head? Not really. I think I always knew I had OCD. It is really common to have that thought, however. Because OCD is totally psychological, it can be really simple to think that you could just be making it up in your head, especially if you are keeping your struggles to yourself.

What is the difference between OCD and just wanting something to look neat? OCD causes extreme stress and guilt in an individual, whilst wanting to keep things neat doesn’t cause such an extreme response. Wanting to keep things neat is not irrational and doesn’t involve any irrational behaviour. If you were wanting to keep things neat to avoid an unlikely and irrational consequence, the behaviour is likely to be part of OCD or anxiety.

Do you always have OCD symptoms or fo you forget about it in some situations? If I”m in a situation where I am focused on something I find it is slightly quieter. I went ice skating with Abbie and I only had two OCD thoughts the whole time.

Helplines for OCD

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