OCD has become a fixture in the imagination of popular culture as people casually throw around remarks like, “Haha, I’m so OCD!” But as real sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder know all too well, it’s a very serious illness that creates overwhelming, debilitating anxiety and can lead to involuntary self-harm.
When Does OCD Become a Disorder?
OCD is possibly the most trivialized mental disorder in popular culture today. It transcends just feeling the urge to do certain things a lot; for example, keeping a very clean home or car does not qualify a person as compulsive in their cleaning habits. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic, long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that they feel the urge to repeat over and over. When diagnosed alongside addiction, it’s not a pretty picture, and certainly not one to be taken lightly.
To qualify as OCD, behaviors should:
- Cause no pleasure; they only relieve preexisting anxiety
- Present serious, continual problems in daily life
- Continue despite being unwanted and recognized as harmful
- Take up at least an hour of every day
Some people also experience tics like twitching, squirming, jerking, or vocal noises.
Symptoms of OCD
If you or a loved one is suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is important most of all to remember that only a licensed psychiatrist can make an official diagnosis. Since New Start firmly believes in getting dual diagnosis addicts the help they need, we partner with a local psychiatric group to offer clients professional psychological evaluations. Getting addiction treatment and appropriate psych meds simultaneously could be the 180 degree turn you or your loved one needs to start their recovery.
Repeated urges, thoughts, or ideas that create serious anxiety such as:
Wanting things symmetrical/in order
Fear of germs
Strange thoughts about restricted topics like sex or religion
Aggression toward oneself or others
Physical behaviors that result from cognitive obsessions such as:
Needing to do things a certain amount of times
Rearranging objects compulsively for things like unlocked doors, running faucets, etc
Unlike many other mental health disorders, OCD does not have distinct subtypes. Still, symptoms manifest differently in all individuals, and those may impact what that person’s addiction looks like.
Early onset is often contingent with gender. Men are more likely to have early onset of OCD, whereas women are more likely to develop the disorder in early adulthood. Early onset OCD tends to be more severe than late onset.
It is extremely common for people with OCD to have another chronic tic disorder. About 50% of people with OCD report having either current or past tics, and about 15% of people with OCD have Tourette syndrome as well (source).
OCD makes rife territory for hoarding behavior. This is linked to the anxiety created by the thought of throwing away items perceived to be important. It can also result from the fear of “running out” or “being out” of a particular item. When approaching a loved one who is hoarding, it’s important not to be judgmental and understand that their behavior is coming from a place of vulnerability. Hoarders also have the potential to squirrel away large stashes of drugs/alcohol. This creates an enabling environment that should be addressed in treatment.