Psych Central

Stress or OCD?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My parents say it’s just stress but I just need a professional opinion. This has probably already been asked a lot but I feel I have a little more different problems than most people who ask because my friend tells me that there are many kinds of OCD (she has OCD).

I’m a rising 10th grader, and ever since 7th grade I’ve been having terrible thoughts. It’s like, if I don’t do something like tap something 10 times or stare/not breathe for a number of seconds something bad will happen. I’ll think, “If you don’t stand completely still for 10 seconds you’ll go to hell” or “I swear to God I’ll tap that 10 times”. So I have to complete those tasks to save myself. My dad says, “You can easily stop” but he doesn’t understand how hard it is to! I mean, swearing to God and breaking that swear is pretty bad thing to do. It’s weird because, I’m not even all that religious, but the thought of that scares me and I don’t want to go to hell.
I even know, “Come on now self, this is stupid. You’re not going to hell.” But I feel the need to do it anyway.

Is the OCD?

A. Only an in-person, psychiatric evaluation could officially verify an OCD diagnosis but you may be beginning to experience the early signs of the disorder. OCD is an anxiety disorder. It is characterized by repetitive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors. There are many variations of OCD.

Your parents were correct when they said that OCD is related to stress. During times of stress individuals may be more likely to engage in OCD-like thoughts and behaviors. The repetitive thoughts and behaviors become coping skills. The problem is that these “coping skills” are maladaptive. They may help temporarily but in reality they can actually make the anxiety disorder worse.

I would encourage you and your parents to seek treatment for this problem sooner rather than later. I say this because anxiety disorders tend to be progressive. This means that they can become worse over time. That is not always the case but it is for some individuals. You could benefit from psychotherapy and perhaps medication. A therapist could teach you better ways to manage your stress. He or she can also help you uncover why you have feelings of anxiety. Medication can help to decrease anxiety.

It may help to show your parents this letter. It might assist you in making your case for why treatment would be beneficial.

Here’s a link to a website to search for therapists in your community. I would encourage you to speak to your parents about this issue. Encourage them to call several therapists and ask questions about treatment. A few targeted sessions with a mental health professional could extinguish your problematic thoughts and behaviors. Thanks for your question. I wish you the best of luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jun 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Stress or OCD?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/06/22/stress-or-ocd/

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