Stacy G. Smith, MS, LPC
OCD Symptoms Rarely Talked About (Part II)
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is often misunderstood as a series of quirky behaviors in highly organized individuals. Some may understand OCD to be a disorder that equates only to repetitive hand-washing and lock-checking. This is far from true. To help spread awareness, I have compiled a Part II list of less-commonly-talked-about presentations of OCD. Part I can be found here.
While neither list is exhaustive, both will provide a glimpse into the struggles of someone living with OCD. Each individual is unique, as are their symptoms; but if there is anything that unites these individuals, it is their strong desire to find relief, to be understood, and to not be seen as someone who simply has "quirky" behaviors they could stop at any time. OCD is real.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with OCD, I encourage you to seek out a qualified mental health professional who can provide you with an accurate diagnosis, and discuss a personalized treatment plan so that you can lead the meaningful, fulfilling life you deserve.
1.) "I am constantly aware of my breathing - every inhale, every exhale. I feel consumed by every breath, including its speed, intensity, how loud each breath sounds... While I sometimes try and distract myself, I can't help but think that if I'm not paying attention, what if I stop breathing? What if I hold my breath without realizing it?"
The above example is often referred to as Hyperawareness OCD, or Somatic OCD, and involves being highly in tune to bodily functions - breathing, swallowing, blinking, heart rate, among others.
2.) “I can’t help but question my own existence. Am I trapped in my own body? How does my body knows how to walk, and talk? These thoughts make me feel so strange, so disconnected. I feel like this tiny entity in an ever-expanding world, and if that's true, what is my purpose? Do I matter? Does anything in life matter? Is this life I’m leading even real? Is it a dream? Will I eventually wake up? How will I know if I wake up?"
The above example falls into the category of Existential/Philosophical OCD, in which a person will question themselves, their surroundings, and the universe, in a manner that is time-consuming, unproductive, and at the cost of their emotional well-being.
3.) “I just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I thought this would be one of the happiest and most exciting times in my life, but it’s not! I feel so afraid to be near him. I have visions of myself strangling him, and throwing him down my long flight of stairs. I know I would never do something to harm my baby, but why are these thoughts happening? What if they are trying to tell me something? That maybe I do have the desire, deep down, to want to hurt him. The pain is so unbearable. I feel like such an awful human being, and mother.”
4.) “I spend all day, and night, trying to replace any negative thought with a positive one. This impacts every move I make! If I pick up my phone while thinking about a bad person from my past, I must put the phone back down, think about a good person, and then pick it back up. Getting dressed can take me an hour - the same with cooking meals, getting in my car, and sending a simple text message. Sometimes it's easier to just avoid going anywhere, or doing anything; but even if I'm lying in bed, doing nothing, a bad thought will surface, and I have to immediately replace it with a good one. I just can't seem to find peace of mind."
5.) “If I stutter over a word in a prayer, or hesitate, or miss a word, or say it too fast, or too slow, or not sincere enough, I must start over. Otherwise, it will not count; and what if I’m punished? Last night I spent a half hour trying to get through a single prayer. It finally felt right in the end, but it's exhausting, and there will always be that next prayer when the long, tiring routine starts again.”
6.) "There are times when I feel so out of control with certain actions. For example, using zippers. I will zip my backpack closed, but will have to redo the zipping motion over and over and over again until it feels just right. The same with checking door knobs to make sure they are locked, twisting water bottle tops... Twisting motions in particular are big triggers, and I can't tell you how many caps, door knobs, and zippers I have broken over time. Once I get started, it feels like I can't stop. It's as if my hands have a mind of their own with no off switch!"
While the above example is generally characterized under Just Right OCD, it can also fall under the more specific category of Tourettic OCD, in which specific movements are done in a tic-like, repetitive manner, to alleviate a feeling of something being incomplete, or not right, rather than to alleviate a general anxious feeling, or a feeling of something bad happening, as is the case in most other forms of OCD.
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