There’s a difference between being a perfectionist, ie. someone who requires flawless results or performance, and having OCD. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic disorder in which an individual has uncontrollable, intrusive, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that they feel compelled to repeat, usually to soothe the said thought.

Contrary to the popular notion, OCD isn’t all about habits like straightening out the room, being slightly peculiar about personal items or ruminating over negative feelings; it actually stems from deep rooted feelings of anxiety. In most cases, the individual is aware that the obsessive thought lacks reason, however, they feel compelled to engage in ritualistic behaviors to achieve satiation.

In some cases the afflicted also believe that something bad will happen if they don’t address their compulsion. This could range from the fear of death of a loved one (obsession) and calling them twenty times in a day (compulsion) to worrying about catching a disease and therefore bathing ten times a day and/or not using public transportation. These behaviours are not voluntarily but carried out because clients fear the consequences of not engaging in the same.

OCD manifests itself in a variety of ways, but the majority of cases fall into one of four categories:

  1. Checking windows, alarm systems, ovens, light switches or suspecting a medical condition such as pregnancy or schizophrenia.
  2. Contamination is characterized by a fear of being infected or a strong desire to clean. Feeling like you’ve been handled like garbage is a sign of mental pollution.
  3. Symmetry and order, the need to arrange items in a certain order.
  4. Ruminations and repetitive thinking as well as a focus on a single line of thought. Any of these ideas could be aggressive or upsetting.

These compulsions are excessive and often are not realistically related to the problem they’re intended to fix. Symptoms generally worsen when one experiences greater stress. Getting treatment as soon as possible may help to prevent OCD from worsening and disrupting one’s  daily routine and performance in other activities.

OCD treatments may involve mental health professionals helping people with these conditions objectively examine their behavior. They reveal an individual’s negative thought patterns and offer productive alternatives to the compulsions. With help, individuals can break the cycle of their distress. Meditation, yoga, and massages are all simple techniques in addition to therapy for dealing with stressful OCD symptoms. In a few severe cases medication is needed. Many people benefit from psychiatric medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which help them control their obsessions and compulsions and improve their quality of life.