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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Is It Really Just Cleaning? Let's Settle This Once and for All


The Dreaded Morning Routine



Shower not available right away



contacts won't go in right away


Brush Teeth



Get dressed

can't find good clothes

Panic Rising

make coffee and food

Kitchen in use


go for a drive

car sounds off

stress stress stress stress

Switch the order to compensate so that the end goal of going for a drive can happen quickly.

will usually happen

Full Panic survival mode activated

Why not go for a drive first?

never happens

Because OCD. Someone might die or I won't be able to sense the bad things because I didn't get ready first.

What Is OCD? Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder

The DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) definition:

"1. Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive, unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.

2. The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some thought or action (i.e., by performing a compulsion).


1. Repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering checking) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to the rules that must be applied rigidly.

2. The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation. However, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive.

3. The obsessions or compulsions are time consuming (e.g., take more than 1 hour per day) or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.


Misconceptions Exist for a Reason

The biggest "misconception" of OCD is that the entire disorder is just a need for order and cleanliness. This is actually a symptom of OCD, but it is true that it is not the ONLY symptom. And it definitely goes deeper than that.

However, we need to break down the judgement around anyone who uses this term to describe themselves.

OCD tendencies exist in every human being. There are times in life that some may increase the tendencies more often.

OCD as a Disorder is a problem.

A tendency becomes a disorder when they become persistent and distressing to the individual's life.


A tendency becomes a disorder when the actions become persistent and distressing to the individual's life.

The Actions of OCD

(And why we need to maintain empathy for those who talk about them)

Sometimes people relate to symptoms of a disorder. This does not mean everyone should use this as a diagnosis, but it could be the stepping stone in someone's realizing they need help. So show kindness.


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Life is messy and unpredictable. So those with Anxiety tend to branch into this way of handling those distressing thoughts. Keeping a sense of control.

This can be cleaning, hoarding, and repetitive behaviors.


Most times, these compulsions and intrusive thoughts can only be managed and sorted out if the environment is perfect. Most times someone with this disorder will need things to be clean and orderly.

However, someone else's markers being disorganized isn't really distressing to them.


It is true that not everyone with OCD needs a clean space. In fact, Hoarding is a form of OCD, and it is quite the opposite for them. Their way of maintaining control is to hold onto everything.

Repetitive Behaviors

This is a distressing symptom of OCD. People with this are on a spectrum of "repetitive behaviors". It could be anywhere from needing a routine every day to having the need to repeat an action 3 times in a row in order to feel safe.

When people talk about needing order in something because of "OCD", don't just assume they are misusing it. Show some sympathy. That is the only way these disorders can be understood.


My Experience

When I was a child... Just Kidding... No we won't do that, but honestly the personal struggle with OCD has been a life long issue.

It is something that I have NOT been professionally diagnosed with. However, in High School I started to search for answers to my "quirks" and frustrations while trying to get through every day... And without fail, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was the number one answer to every concern and question. Basically, I did my own deep dive research on myself. I recommend anyone cross reference this research with a professional. In my case, I am in my studies to get a B.A in Psychology. So I have my own cross checking sources. Though I will soon be checking in with a Therapist to help manage these issues.

I struggle(d) to break my routine.

There are some extreme cases where people need to open a door 10 times before leaving the house or wash their hands for 2 minutes. I did not have that spectrum of issues, but I needed to have everything in place.

When my siblings would makes messes it sent me into extreme distress. The house had to be in perfect order in order for me to feel safe and relaxed. I had to shower at the same time every day, notebooks had to be in a certain order, I had to make lists of every detail of what to do down to brushing my teeth, I had to ask my mom if my outfit looked good regardless of me actually caring that day. The list goes on and on, but what it comes down to is the constant need for the day to be under strict control.

I needed order and cleanliness.

I am one of those people who fit into the stereotype of orderliness. It's not the main point though. Once again, this is about controlling the environment in order to manage the extreme anxiety over this uncontrollable world.

Final Thoughts

I am now managing these symptoms every day. Unfortunately, adding on a history of being in a toxic relationship has sent me into more extreme OCD. I have to go for a drive and have my coffee before "being me". Otherwise, instead of anxiety, I become a shell of emptiness.

This is different than just being a little agitated when you don't get what you need. It's more like the entire nervous system shuts down because you still have to be productive. So you are no longer you. At all. It's something that is difficult to put in perspective until you really live that reality.

The human brain does an amazing job of covering our distress, but that means becoming a protective version of ourselves if we don't take care of the issues at its source. It can make us less than our true selves. So it is extremely important for a valuable fulfilling life to take care of your mental health.

In order to overcome this until I can see a Therapist, I tell myself everyday that I am not less than a human just because missing my shower makes me feel like the day is ruined.

The same goes for anyone struggling with this. You are just trying to manage chaos in a chaotic world. That is the most human thing we can possibly do. Be kind to yourself. We got this. :)

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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