Spotting Obsessions

Checking, double checking, triple checking, turning the key in the door once, twice, three times, shutting the door. Get in the car, turn on the ignition, tap the dashboard once, twice, three- four- five times. Saying the rosary twice before thinking..”did I turn off the stove?”. Two hours later you are still thinking about the stove even though you went back and checked for the fourth time and you were late for work…again.

This is the life of a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is a disorder of anxiety as much as it is a disorder of control, despite the seeming need for organization. Sometimes we can see a person who clearly has some of these issues (like the guy who has his sock drawer colour-coded), but most times we do not. Psychologists will see them when they get into trouble or have wound themselves into not being able to leave the house at all.

But if you have a friend or know someone with this disorder, including yourself, these are some the signs to look out for:

1. Obsessive thoughts about an object, a task or a way of functioning

2. Anxiety, feelings of panic or extreme discomfort if you are not able to organize or plan in the way you would like to

3. Uncontrollable impulses to conduct certain actions or behaviors  in order to prevent the anxiety and quell the sensations from arising

4. When you are able to complete the task you feel only marginally better, and quickly move on to the next set of things that must be done just so

5. These thoughts, feelings and behaviors are recognized by the person as unreasonable but they feel powerless to stop it

6. Functioning at work, home and school is impaired by these obsession and compulsions

7. In severe cases OCD may lead to psychosis


This is not the case with persons who just  need to have the eggs before the toast or the person who may need to turn the labels out on products on supermarket shelves – but if you notice the anxiety before the act, and you notice the thoughts of doom if you do not complete the act, and the behaviors lead you to be consistently late or underperform in your job, you may have OCD.

Some occupations require this trait, such as the medical profession especially surgeons; and the aviation industry, such as pilots-  while others are completely humbugged by the constant need for control, odd ticks and perseverative behavior.

I remember meeting a young lady during my university years that had OCD. She was my age but she had to stop going to school because she took 3 hours to get out of the bathroom and her skin was sore and scratched from the severity of the shower routine that took place each morning. I noted how lost she was in the obsession and I realized treatment was too late. She eventually developed panic attacks followed by paranoid delusions and hallucinations.

There is no prevention for OCD.. just early recognition. So Call your nearest Psychologist or Psychiatrist and get a good evaluation if you think you may have this problem.

For the Lighter side of OCD with a better ending check out As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson.



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