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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Compulsive Hand Washing

Compulsive Hand Washing

OCD Symptoms and Behaviors

There are two types of disorders. There is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Both disorders are characterized by recurrent, repetitive thoughts and behaviors. The personality disorder is more of a problem because there is no off switch.

For instance, your thoughts may cause extreme anxiety and you can't stop worrying about death all day or you may be fixated on not feeling safe. Many are germ-a-phoebes. They continually wash their hands all day long, shake hands or get too close to people.

Abnormal Brain Activity

Abnormal Brain Activity

Consequences of Personality Disorders

Tony Shalhoub of Monk and Howie Mandel are two well known personalities that talk about this problem openly. The personality disorder would take it a step further than the OCD person. They are obsessed with dirt so they bathe and wash their hair and hands frequently. They may develop dermatitis or skin lesions from picking at their skin.

Other types of repetitive behaviors include counting things frequently, cleaning things that aren’t dirty over and over again, and checking on things continually, like is the stove or coffee pot turned off or the door locked. They are plagued with unwelcome thoughts and images. They may feel intense distress if something is not turned the right way. They may have images of hurting their child or someone in an auto accident; or impulses to shout obscenities in inappropriate situations. They are often plagued with doubt, hence the repetitive checking to see if the stove is turned off. These rituals are performed to seek temporary relief from the repetitive thoughts.

What are Intrusive Thoughts? [& When They Signal Pure O OCD]

Obsession Themes

This is a description that one victim of this disease might have written: “I couldn’t do anything without rituals. They invaded every aspect of my life. Counting really bogged me down. I would wash my hair three times as opposed to once because three was a good luck number and one wasn’t. It took me longer to read because I’d count the lines in a paragraph. When I set my alarm at night, I had to set it to a number that wouldn’t add up to a ’bad’ number.”

“I knew the rituals didn’t make sense, and I was deeply ashamed of them, but I couldn’t seem to overcome them until I had therapy.”

“Getting dressed in the morning was tough, because I had a routine, and if I didn’t follow the routine, I’d get anxious and would have to get dressed again. I always worried that if I didn’t do something, my parents were going to die. I’d have these terrible thoughts of harming my parents. That was completely irrational, but the thoughts triggered more anxiety and more senseless behavior. Because of the time I spent on rituals, I was unable to do a lot of things that were important to me.”

The obsessive thoughts have themes, such as the fear of germs and to ease the contamination they start the compulsive hand washing to the degree their hands are chapped and sore. Despite these efforts, the thoughts keep returning, which leads to more compulsive behavior.

Common obsession themes according to Mayo Clinic are:

  • "Fear of contamination or dirt
  • Needing things orderly and symmetrical
  • Aggressive or horrific impulses
  • Unwanted thoughts of sexual or religious subjects, including aggression"

There is a difference between being a perfectionist and having OCD. OCD can become disabling and certainly produce a low quality of life.

Extreme Nail Biting

Extreme Nail Biting

In Summary

Many of us have some of the characteristics of OCD (sometimes referred to as an anal personality). For instance, in a public restroom, I try not to touch anything. I wash my hands, and if possible I turn the water off with the paper towel I use to dry my hands. Then I use my left hand, with a tissue or the back of my hand if possible to open the door because I know many don’t wash their hands.

Considering the flu and other diseases this could be called healthy living. I thought my mother might have OCD when I was a teenager as she had us cleaning the house very regularly. It seemed she wanted everything to look perfect, but told us it was good training for when we had homes of our own. I think she was probably right.

If your obsessions and compulsions are affecting your life, see your doctor or mental health provider. It is common for people with OCD to be ashamed and embarrassed about the condition. But even if your rituals are deeply ingrained, treatment can help.

There are medications that will help reduce the stress level. Counseling can certainly help, and research is yielding new improved therapies that help most people with their symptoms.

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There is Christian counseling available that will help with shame based beliefs that often start this vicious cycle of OCD living. Don’t ignore the problem, as it probably won’t go away without some outside help. Take that risk to get help and have a good life.

Monk on OCD

Evaluate Yourself for Compulsive Traits

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2012:

Jasper, Thank you so much for your comments.

jasper420 on February 22, 2012:

Thanks for raising awarness Im currently working on this issue and I came across your hub I thought you did a great job explaining your thoughts knowlage and feelings toward this illness very usefull, informative and intresting well put togeather realy enjoyed the read thanks!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2010:

peachefulparadoz, Thanks you for adding that comment to my hub. I didn't realize that was true. Thanks for commenting.

peacefulparadox on June 09, 2010:

Compulsive hording may be considered a subset of OCD as well. Around 30% to 40% of OCD patients display some hording behavior.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 16, 2010:

Thank you for your comment Roberta

Roberta99 on January 16, 2010:

Very interesting aritcle. I know someone that has this disorder and life is very difficult for them.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 13, 2010:

Freelance, I think I heard that also. Thanks for your comment.

freelancewriterva on January 12, 2010:

I think Howard Hughes had this illness. Excellent hubpage.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 11, 2010:

Eovery, I don't think intelligence has anything to do with this disease. It sounds like you have basically overcome the compulsion and hopefully will be able to help your children do the same.

eovery from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa on January 11, 2010:

I get a kick out of finding that a lot of more intelligent people suffer from CCD, compulsion Counting Disorder. I do not thing of myself as very smart, but for I while I almost almost over run with counting disorder, and still have some remnants of it. I find my kids have it, who are very intelligent and other intelligent friends of theirs do too.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 11, 2010:

dohn, You're so welcome. I hope these people who fit the descriptions will seek some help so they can know some peace and be well. Thank you for your comment.

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on January 11, 2010:

I worked, lived, and am related to some of the people whose symptoms fit your descriptions here perfectly! You gave such great insight and examples of people who suffer from such ailments. Than you Pamela!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 11, 2010:

Tn and Hello, Thanks for your comments. I think it would be very difficult to live with this compulsive disorder. They try to make in funny in the TV shows, but obviously it would affect relationships also.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on January 11, 2010:

It was very interesting for me to read but very sad for people who suffer of it. Thank you for your Hub.

TnFlash from Tampa, Florida on January 11, 2010:

Pamela, Great Hub! I have a close friend with OCD. OCD can make your life really difficult. It can at times make relationships difficult.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 11, 2010:

Thanks for the comment BPop. When I studied in be a nurse, the same thing happened to me. One semester I had to work in a mental ward and I knew I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life. They might just have locked me in one day!

breakfastpop on January 11, 2010:

Great hub, Pamela.

We all are a little bit crazy, but when our craziness disturbs our life and we are no longer functioning effectively, it becomes a disorder. I remember in college when I first began studying psychology, I thought I had every major mental illness. The line between normal and abnormal is very, very thin.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 11, 2010:

Tom, I think we all have a few little quirks. Life wouldn't be much fun if we were all identical. Thanks for your comment.

Tom Whitworth from Moundsville, WV on January 11, 2010:


I don't have OCD but I do have a bashful kidney I can hardly go in a public restroom if someone else is around. I also have a sleep ritual that helps me go to sleep.

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