I think I may have OCD

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 18 years old and preparing to go to university for psychiatry. I have asthma, eczema, ADD and something that seems similar to restless legs syndrome. As I was taking a course on psychiatric disorders, I started to notice that a lot of the things associated with OCD applied to me. I may be just a hypochondriac or something, but I was hoping you could help me with that. I bite my nails, cuticles, and the skin around my nails constantly. I bite my bottom lip and the inside of my mouth. I find that I need to scroll down on a webpage 5 lines at a time, and it bothers me when a word doesn’t quite fit on a line when I’m writing. I tug at my nails too and run things under them all the time (hairclips, toothpicks, etc). I also pick at scabs on my scalp (I have eczema, the scabs are already there) and on my legs (bug bites).

I don’t hoard, per say, but I get upset and cry when I need to throw something away that either has sentimental value to me or that I think I might need later. It’s frustrating when I read something on my iPhone and a paragraph doesn’t line up exactly with the screen size from beginning to end and I have to scroll to see the rest of it. I’ve always bitten my nails but the rest has come on more slowly, over the past year or so. I didn’t realize that any of this was abnormal since it never felt like a real obsession, just something I wanted to do to feel better (these things don’t make me feel happy, just a little…r elieved, I guess?).

I’m not an unhappy person, not particularly anxious, and I don’t care for neatness. I don’t understand it and I’m worried that having any sort of disorder like OCD will jeopardize my chances of becoming a psychiatrist. Plus, I’m afraid of my parents’ reaction if I tell them I want to see a therapist. Any advice?

A: Although I agree that it certainly sounds like you have symptoms of OCD, it would take a face to face evaluation to confirm it. Unlike the other anxiety disorders, OCD seems to be largely biologically caused. The good news is that it is usually responsive to medication and some talk therapy to learn alternative ways to cope with anxiety. A diagnosis of OCD is unlikely to jeopardize admission to medical school as it does not usually cloud a person’s judgment. Personally, I think that people in the helping professions who have had to overcome their own difficulties are better able to empathize with their patients.

I encourage you to do some further research on the causes and treatments for OCD. Then share the information with your parents and ask for their support in getting some help. Often parental resistance to counseling comes from fear that they will be blamed for their child’s problems. In this case, they are not responsible. They couldn’t know that some combination of genes gave you the body chemistry that results in what looks like OCD. What they can do now is help you get to a psychiatrist and therapist to do a thorough evaluation so you can get the treatment you need.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Feb 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). I think I may have OCD. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/02/25/i-think-i-may-have-ocd/

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