Could I Have OCD?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

About two years ago I started having the urge to blink at certain things I would see, or if I started to feel stressed I would blink rapidly. Now for the past year or so I’ve had the urge to blink at corners anytime I see them and touch the corners of my computer desk and monitor anytime I’m around them, sometimes I’ll still blink if I start feeling overwhelmed. When I’m around or passing by someone who is sick or has an illness of some sort I have to hold my breath until they’re gone. I usually feel bad afterwards. Also throughout the day I usually wash my hands somewhere from 18-25 times, my friends have pointed it out to me and they think it’s a bit weird. Do you think it could be a mild case of OCD?

A. It is difficult to offer a reliable diagnosis over the Internet but based on the information you have provided, it is possible that you may be developing OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by unwanted reoccurring thoughts and repetitive behaviors. The repetitive behaviors are also known as rituals and in your situation the behaviors would be hand washing, eye blinking and holding your breath when a sick individual is nearby. The latter behavior may be related to a fear of contamination.

Individuals with OCD report feeling anxious when they do not perform their rituals. They believe or hope that the rituals will help to decrease their anxiety. In response to their anxiety they allow themselves to engage in the rituals, which helps to relieve their anxiety. This leads to the conclusion that their rituals are working. The temporary decrease in anxiety serves to reinforce the repetitious behavior. The next time a person feels anxious they will be more likely to resort to the same behavior that had previously led to a decrease in anxiety. In the short term the repetitious behaviors do tend to decrease one’s anxiety. This decrease is temporary and reinforces the behaviors or rituals. It’s not an effective solution. Over time, you may feel compelled to engage in the rituals more often.

OCD tends to be a progressive disorder but this is not true for everyone. Symptoms may only arise on certain occasions, decrease over time or they could become worse. There are effective treatments for OCD including cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation training. A specific form of cognitive behavioral therapy, known as exposure and prevention response, has been shown to be a very effective treatment. Medication can help as well.

It is generally believed that individuals with OCD, through their rituals, are attempting to establish control over events and situations that in reality they have no power over. Therapy could help you to understand and to be comfortable with a lack of control. You might find solace in the Serenity Prayer that has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous: “God, grant us the Serenity to accept things we cannot change, Courage to change the things we can, and the Wisdom to know the difference…”

I would recommend professional help if you notice this problem becoming worse. It is best to take a proactive approach with OCD. The sooner it is treated the better.

I would also suggest speaking to your parents about this issue. In addition, it would be wise to educate yourself about OCD through reading. In the meantime, try to resist the urge to engage in your rituals. It may be an uncomfortable experience but learning to tolerate the anxiety can significantly reduce the intensity of OCD. When you feel anxious, try taking a different approach to decreasing your anxiety. Some suggestions include writing in a journal, talking to a friend or family member, taking a walk, reading a book, watching television, taking a nap, engaging in deep breath exercises, and so forth. The idea is to distract yourself so that you will not engage in your usual rituals.

Thanks for your question. I wish you well.

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Jul 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Could I Have OCD?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/07/21/could-i-have-ocd/