Five quick tips to tell if you are suffering from OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions), that produce a sense of dread or alarm. Persons then engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsions) in an attempt to rid themselves of the obsessive thoughts and calm the anxiety.

If you suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, then the chances are you will relate to most of the following points:

1) Are your thoughts persistent and repetitive, going round and round in your head like a song? My hands are dirty, my hands are dirty, are my hands dirty, maybe they aren't, maybe a little, ok I'll wash them again just to be sure.

2) Do you feel you have to repetitively perform behaviors in order to quiet your thoughts? Count to 10, avoid cracks in the pavement, clean over and over, check the front door, have specific numbers of things…

3) Do your thoughts prevent you from concentrating on anything else? Such as reading a book or following a conversation? When reading, for example, you might read the same sentence over and over and never actually take it in, because your obsessive thoughts are overwhelming you.

4) Do your rituals prevent you from functioning normally in everyday life, making you late for work every day or even unable to leave the house at all?

5) Do your thoughts and behaviors cause you significant distress, anxiety and tears?

If you answer yes to most of these then it’s safe to say that you may suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. If you do suffer from OCD then you want to get help. OCD is a biological disorder of the brain, which will not just go away on its own. Don’t suffer in silence and don’t try to do it alone. OCD is a hard illness to live with, and treatment options exist, so there is no need to suffer unnecessarily.

What not to say to someone with OCD

People say the darnedest things. And sometimes they say the most insensitive things. Whilst it’s great that obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has received enough media attention that it’s no longer a dirty secret, it is obvious that many people still fail to understand the true severity of this anxiety disorder. When people say things like “I’m so OCD about that,” what they don’t get is that were they really suffering from OCD they would be trapped in an endless cycle of intrusive thoughts and anxiety, held hostage by their own minds, and often barely able to function in their lives.

So whilst it’s great that sufferers of OCD can freely say they have OCD without being confronted with questioning looks, we the listeners need to respond appropriately. And this begins with knowing what not to say.

1)  “How bad can it really be?” So bad that it can take hours just to leave the house. If we even ever make it out of the house.
And the only relief comes during sleep. It's an incessant nightmare that never lets you go, not even for one second.

2)  “I’m also a bit OCD about things like that.” There’s a huge difference between keeping a neat and tidy home and suffering from incessant, intrusive thoughts and compulsions over which you have no control, no matter how exhausted you are.

3)  “Snap out of it.” OCD is not fun. If we could snap out of it, we would!

4)  “Why can’t you just think about something else?” OCD is a biological disorder of the brain. We can’t control our thoughts any more than a diabetic can control their production of insulin.

5)  “It’s because you don’t have any real worries.” We feel guilty enough as it is, you don’t need to make us feel any worse.

6)  “Let’s go out and get drunk.” OCD is an anxiety disorder, and alcohol use only makes anxiety worse.
Interestingly, one of alcohol's many side effects is the depletion of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Sufferers of OCD already have low serotonin, hence the success of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs in treating OCD. So when someone offers you alcohol, the answer is thanks but no thanks.

7)  “It’s because your parents were too controlling.” Actually for once, parents are not to blame. OCD is a neuro-biological disorder, meaning that we were born this way.

So please, people, think before you speak.

How to tell someone you have OCD, without embarrassing yourself

When I was a child, before I’d ever heard of the term obsessive compulsive disorder, I didn’t know what to make of my thoughts, other than that they were embarrassing and had to be kept secret at all costs.

Fortunately today, OCD is well recognized, so most people have heard of it. However, without personally experiencing the horror of OCD symptoms, it’s unlikely that others will understand the serious grip that OCD has on a person. This is only made worse if your particular set of symptoms falls in the embarrassing end of the spectrum, like the woman who avoided seeking help for twenty-four years because she was too embarrassed to reveal she thought she had semen on her hands.

To add insult to embarrassment, gathering the courage to describe your OCD symptoms out loud can be a huge anti-climax.  Words are insufficient and do little more than trivialize the agonizing vice-like hold that OCD thoughts and compulsions have on your brain.

To quote from A Life Lived Ridiculously:

I just didn’t see how I could possibly explain all this to another person such that they would get it. ‘Hi, doc, I’m here because I don’t like the lampshades in my apartment and I can’t decide where the TV should go.’ ‘I’m a doctor, not an interior designer,’ is the response I would expect. ‘Yeah, but it really bothers me.’ ‘Well, my wife won’t let me take the pool table out of the basement and that really bothers me.’

So here are some ways that you might use to broach the subject of your OCD:

1) Introduce the conversation by talking about some of the many famous people who openly have OCD.
David Beckham, Miley Cyrus and Daniel Radcliffe have talked openly about their struggles with the condition.
Well respected historical figures, such as Charles Darwin, Samuel Johnson and Florence Nightinglale, were also thought to have OCD.  

This allows you to gage whether your audience knows about OCD and also allows you to get some clues as to whether your audience is likely to be sympathetic or not.

2) Draw people’s attention to the well known TV programs that deal with OCD.

- Detective Monk television series
- Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets.
- Obsessed

3) I read an interesting article / novel about OCD. With so much information online and in bookstores, it’s easy to inform people. Some great memoirs about OCD include: 
- Devil in the details by Jennifer Traig
- It’ll be ok: How I kept OCD from ruining my life by Shannon Shy
- Memoirs of a Born Shlepper: Never Give OCD a Third Thought by Rod Fadem
- Rewind, Replay Repeat: A Memoir of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Jeff Bell
- A Life Lived Ridiculously by Dr Annabelle R Charbit

Reading a memoir allows your audience to gain a deep insight into what it’s like to live every day with OCD.

4) It happened to a friend of mine
. Talk about your symptoms as though they were someone else’s, Then gage the reaction of your audience.

5) If you don’t wish to speak face to face
with someone, you may always email links about OCD.

6) Explain to others that OCD is a physical illness
, no less so than hypothyroidism or heart disease. Understand that OCD is a biological disorder of the brain and learn the neurological pathways (the OCD circuit). Eg the error centers of the brain are overactive due to a lack of serotonergic activity in the orbitofrontal cortex. Some great resources include:
Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Jeffery M Schwartz
- Getting Control by Lee Baer

- Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals: The hidden Epidemic of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Ian Osborn

7) Join online forums and support groups, and practice talking about it with other sufferers until talking about it becomes second nature.
- OCD Tribe
- Neurotic Planet
- OCD Action
- Psych and Mental Health
- Support Groups
- Social Phobia World
- Stuck In A Doorway

You may also encounter persons with more moving ways to describe their daily torment, which you can adopt when describing yours.

Will any of these tips make your audience really understand your pain? Probably not. But it will help you to inform others in a way that is easily accessible to them and hopefully not so embarrassing for you
enbarrassed about OCD, embarrassed about obsessive compulsive disorder
How to date someone who has obsessive compulsive disorder

You may have a partner with obsessive compulsive disorder, or you might be considering starting a relationship, but hesitant because the object of your affections has
obsessive compulsive disorder. It can certainly be challenging if a person’s symptoms threaten to interfere with all the fun you’d like to have. But then again, nobody’s perfect. We all have something that nags us.

I've met many people with OCD, and without exception, they have been sweet, humble, empathic and without arrogance. OCD sufferers are also highly intelligent and extremely strong in spite of the craziness inside their heads.

If that special someone in your life happens to have OCD, take heart. Many OCD sufferers manage to lead normal (or crazy and normal) lives, which includes marriage, children and career. Just because a person has OCD, does not mean that they cannot be a huge asset to your life and make an excellent partner and parent.

So here are some tips on how to treat your special someone and have a wonderful life regardless of their OCD:

1) Never say, “why can’t you just snap out of it?!”
The answer is no they can’t snap out of it, any more than a diabetic can snap out of being unable to produce insulin. Except in the OCD sufferer it’s serotonin (among other neurotransmitters) that is not being delivered in adequate quantities to the relevant areas of the brain. OCD is a biological disorder of the brain, and needs to be understood as such.

2) Listen to your loved one.
Talking about OCD can be hard, because words often fall short of illustrating the true depth of pain and anxiety experienced by the sufferer. To quote from A Life Lived Ridiculously,

As I listened to the words pour from my mouth, I could have thumped myself in the face. Not because the words evoked emotions, rather I was disappointed by the extent to which the words trivialized the mental anguish associated with these decorating dilemmas. It was like suffering from a broken leg but only having the vocabulary to describe a scraped knee. Words just didn’t do justice to the pain. How do you tell a stranger that you don’t like the shape of your lampshade and at the same time expect them to understand that you are describing a pain that inhabits you fully, inserts itself between your cells like cement and wears your skin like a coat? I just sounded like I was whining.

If you give the impression that you really get it, you will have taken a huge step in making your loved one feel less isolated with their condition.

3) Inform yourself.
For the reasons stated above, go online, get books and learn what it really means to be nagged by intrusive thoughts.

4) If your partner’s OCD is under control
with the use of medication, therapy, or both, be supportive. Never ask them to come off their meds or stop therapy just because they “seem fine now.” Your loved one is fine and able to be in a great relationship with you because they have their OCD under control. OCD is a lifelong illness, and this means that the medications are for life. Asking someone to come off their meds would not only bring back their symptoms, but may make symptoms worse. A relapse can set a person back so far that when they return to their meds, the old dose may not be sufficient and a higher dose would be required.

5) If your partner’s OCD is not under control
, if they are symptomatic and it is causing distress and disruption to their life, then urge and encourage them to get help. Remind them that it is not their fault, that they are unwell, and that they cannot get better alone. You may also offer to become partners in treatment, by attending therapy with them, helping out with exposure exercises, and reminding your loved one to take their medications. This will, at the very least, help to build a strong bond between the two of you.

6) You don’t have to exclude someone because “OCD might be hereditary.”
They might be thinking the same about your hairy back. Again no one is perfect.

7) Accept your partner just the way they are
. After all, you likely fell in love with this person as a whole package that included their issues with anxiety. Acceptance delivers a positive message that may allow you and your loved one to actually become closer. If your loved one is struggling with the idea of getting help, your unconditional acceptance can actually free them to start taking risks which is one of the things they’ll have to do if they want to overcome their anxiety. Change always requires being able to take risks, be vulnerable, and make mistakes. When people feel safe, they can do these things more easily. The best gift you can give is your unconditional love and support.

Many OCD sufferers have their condition under control due to a mix of education, and a willingness to address and treat the problem. So long as a person is prepared to acknowledge their illness and desires to treat it, then there is no reason that they should not make a wonderful life partner. We are all far from perfect, but only those in denial are undatable. Everyone else is fair game. 

dating somone with ocd