Stacy G. Smith, MS, LPC
OCD Symptoms Rarely Talked About
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is often portrayed in the media through hand-washing, a clean house, and an excessive need to check the locks on the front door. While these are certainly symptoms of OCD, they are far from the complete picture. OCD manifests itself in countless ways, all of which are important to recognize, as a means of spreading awareness, knowledge, and the message, "you are not alone."
Below is a compilation of less-commonly-talked-about presentations of OCD. Each one is upsetting in its own way, and can leave an individual feeling like a prisoner of their own mind. While this list is not exhaustive, it provides a good variety of themes to further understand the struggles of someone with OCD. If any of the below situations make you think, "wow, that's me!" know that you are not alone, and that with help, you can lead a happy, meaningful, and productive life.
Before reading the list below, it is important to remember that individuals without OCD experience intrusive thoughts as well. The difference is, those with OCD hold onto these thoughts more closely, interpret them, magnify their importance, and engage in either a mental or physical compulsion to reduce the intensity of the associated emotion that is triggered. Someone without OCD is able to acknowledge the thought as odd, not give it much attention, and resume their daily activity. If you find yourself consumed by intrusive thoughts, and engaging in compulsions in a manner that is time-consuming and negatively impacting your every day life, I encourage you to speak with a mental health care provider, who can provide you with a personalized assessment to see if OCD is present.
1.) “I need to read and reread an article or book chapter, making sure I understand every word perfectly. I can repeat words and sentences over and over again until I’m convinced I fully understand them. It can take at least a half hour to read one page of a book, and then it starts all over again with the next page."
2.) “I have this thought that I can lose control at any moment. That I can walk past someone and punch them in the face, hurt them in some way, and then get in serious trouble. I try and keep my hands occupied at all times to prevent this from happening, but it never feels safe enough. What if I lash out? The thought of going to prison is horrifying. I'd lose everything!”
3.) “I get these intrusive thoughts of seeing other people naked. I find myself trying to avert my eyes when speaking with someone, but then question whether my eyes might have slipped, they saw me looking at the most private parts of their bodies, and they’re now appalled by me and my behavior. I am such an awful human being and feel so perverted. It's easier to just avoid as many conversations as I can, but it can become isolating, and I can't always avoid conversations at work."
4.) “I keep thinking my body is giving off a fowl odor, and can’t help but repeatedly check my armpits and breath. I find it hard to stand near others or speak to them face to face, and find myself continuously applying deodorant or perfume, and monitoring others’ facial expressions for any indication that an odor is present. Summertime is the worst, and while everyone is outside enjoying the warm weather, I try and avoid it."
5.) "Driving feels like such a chore. I can't help but repeatedly look in my rear-view mirror, thinking I hit someone. Sometimes I'll drive around the block multiple times, searching for any evidence that I hit someone, and if it's a bad day and I still don't trust myself, I'll take a quick look at the news later in the day for any headlines of an accident in my area."
6.) Coming from a female: "I can't help but continuously question my sexuality. I've been happily married to my husband for over 10 years, but what if my whole life is a lie? I remember having the thought that a woman on TV was attractive, and since then, I've been questioning why I had that thought. I try not to look at women at work, while walking down the street, or even in magazines. I'm nervous that I'll be turned on by them, and then what do I do? I have nothing against homosexual relationships, but I just keep questioning myself and can't stop. I love my husband, but what if that thought was trying to tell me something?"
7.) "I can't help but think I've inappropriately touched someone, or performed a sexual act that I just don't remember. It's so hard to be alone with anyone, especially a young child - even my own(!) - without thinking I am going to traumatize him/her for life. I keep replaying the events of my day to make sure I can account for every moment, but I even doubt my own memory."
8.) “I often utter insulting and highly judgmental comments in my head about others, especially when they make a mistake or do something I don’t approve of. But then I think about whether I accidentally said those comments out loud, and they heard me! It petrifies me. I keep replaying my conversations, and try to observe others' behaviors, looking for any sign that this thought is true. What if I get called into Human Resources at work one day and get fired? My entire reputation will be destroyed.”
9.) "I must always feel balanced. If I catch myself scratching my right arm, I must do the same with the left. If I bump my foot, I must bump the other, and with the same amount of pressure, or I just won't 'feel right.' It's a feeling that is hard to describe - it just feels wrong. While I try hard to camouflage these rituals when I'm in public, I can't always do so, and it's embarrassing. Sometimes it's just easier to stay home."
10.) “I feel like I can’t tell a lie, even a small, white lie, or I will be punished. I find myself always trying to do the "right thing," and review my days over and over, making sure I always told the truth, didn't break any rules, and behaved appropriately. I'll apologize profusely for any perceived mistake, and try to remind myself that I'm a good person with good morals/values."
11.) “I’m engaged to my fiance and know I love him. He's everything I ever wanted in a partner, but I keep wondering if there is someone better out there. How do I know I’m marrying my soulmate? How do I know my partner is “the one?” What if my true love is out there waiting for me, and I could be even happier than I am now? When I scan my body to examine my feelings around him, I keep thinking they just aren't what they are supposed to be. There are moments when I feel nothing, and I wonder if I'd feel something better if I were with someone else. My fiance hasn't done anything wrong, and there's so much I love about him, but what if I'm with the wrong person?
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