Many people struggling with OCD are shocked when they learn their symptoms fall on the OCD spectrum. “But I thought all people with OCD are afraid of germs. I thought they’re all neatniks who wash their hands a lot.” Not true! While that may describe some people with OCD, let’s take a look at the MANY ways OCD can present.

  • What is OCD? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects up to 3.5 million adults and children in the United States. People struggling with OCD experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts that cause uncomfortable feelings (such as anxiety, disgust, shame, guilt) as well as compulsions – behaviors which seek to reduce the distress caused by the thoughts. Although most people experience some form of intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors during their lifetime, it becomes a diagnosable disorder when the symptoms cause such distress and interference in a person’s life that the person has difficulty engaging in activities they would otherwise enjoy.
  • What kinds of OCD are there? OCD has many subtypes including, but not limited to: relationship OCD, pedophile OCD (POCD), emotional contamination, sexual orientation or homosexual OCD, contamination, symmetry, scrupulosity, religious OCD, harm OCD, sensorimotor (body-focused), health-related, perinatal/postpartum, and perfectionism.
  • How do I know if I have OCD? If you are having repeated unwanted thoughts or mental images that cause you anxiety, disgust, or distress, you might consider getting an evaluation. Because the human mind is a vast and infinite place, OCD can present as literally anything — the sky is the limit. While most people have intrusive thoughts and obsessions about topics in the above subtypes, some people do not — or do not recognize their symptoms as falling under one of those subtypes. For instance, intrusive thoughts about fruits and vegetables (and behaviors that avoid fruits and vegetables) might be related to contamination OCD or health-related OCD. If you decide to seek an evaluation, make sure you meet with a qualified OCD specialist who can help rule in (or rule out) OCD. See links below for suggestions on finding the right help.
  • Who Gets OCD? OCD typically emerges between the ages of 8-12 or in late adolescence/early adulthood. OCD can affect any person regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. Current estimates suggest that approximately 1 in every 100 adults has OCD and at least 1 in 200 children have OCD. This amounts to roughly 2-3 million adults and 500,000 children. The prevalence of OCD is likely under-estimated due to low self-reporting and lack of awareness of what symptoms qualify as OCD.
  •  Who can diagnose and treat OCD? A licensed mental health professional can assess for OCD and clinicians who offer Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can provide treatment.
  • How can I find the right therapist? Click HERE for further info.
  • What are some lesser-known forms of OCD? Again, because the human mind can have some very creative thoughts, there are some very creative types of OCD! Treating OCD is never a boring venture because just when I think I’ve heard it all, a new client walks through the door with a form of OCD I have not yet encountered. Some less obvious obsessional material may include: fears of becoming a zombie/monster/serial killer, emotional contamination involving inanimate objects (such as projecting human characteristics onto non-living objects: “the fork will feel left out if I only use the spoon to eat”), intrusive gibberish or nonsense words, compulsive petty stealing of insignificant materials such as band-aids (especially in the interest of “saving up….just in case”), fear of raw fruits and vegetables, obsessive checking for body odor (sometimes called olfactory reference syndrome), fear of losing things, superstitions (avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, lucky numbers, etc), preoccupation with a specific body part or bodily function, fear of losing one’s personality, violent/perverse/sexual thoughts, having a “just not right” feeling if you don’t engage in a ritualistic behavior such as tapping a doorframe or straightening some school papers, and a pervasive fear of losing control.

Jayme M. Valdez, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor in private practice in Worcester, MA, specializing in the treatment of OCD, phobias, and other anxiety disorders.

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