Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often mixed up with having an obsessive personality.
People with obsessive personalities may, for example, like to have their books arranged alphabetically, without having OCD.
The sign that someone really has OCD is that their behaviours are driven by fear or intrusive thoughts that they are trying to get rid of.
OCD is most definitely not something sufferers derive any pleasure or satisfaction from.
Dr Elizabeth McIngvale, who is at Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Baylor College of Medicine, explained:
“Obsessive compulsive personality disorder, in my opinion, is often what society thinks OCD is.
People with OCPD might organize their closet perfectly, have all of their items color-coded and organized by type or category, or if you open their fridge all of their labels are lined up perfectly and everything has a place.
However, individuals with OCPD often talk about the fact that there’s not an unwanted, intrusive thought and there’s no fear attached to these behaviors.
They just organize things a certain way or do these kind of compulsive behaviors because it makes them feel better.
However, with OCD, it is something that individuals don’t enjoy – there’s nothing they like about it, they are doing it because they feel like they have to in order to get rid of the intrusive thought or fear.
It is debilitating and draining and not something that makes the individual feel better and more productive when they are done.”
So, when people say “I’m a little OCD”, technically they should be saying: “I’m a little OCPD”.
Dr McIngvale continues:
“OCD is characterized by having compulsions and obsessions that are caused by unwanted, intrusive thoughts.
Individuals don’t want these thoughts, and it causes anxiety and they engage in repetitive rituals, which don’t bring them any joy or pleasure.
It’s something that they do because they feel like they have to in order to get rid of that thought.”
Some of the different types of OCD include contamination OCD, scrupulosity OCD, checking OCD, symptomatic OCD, perfectionism OCD, sexual intrusive thoughts and harming intrusive thoughts.
All are driven by fears (for example, of dirt or breaking a moral code) or intrusive thoughts (such as that they might suddenly commit a violent act).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Dr McIngvale concluded:
“Unfortunately, OCD is one of the disorders that takes, on average, about 25 years for people to get a diagnosis and proper treatment, but I really want to make sure that everybody with OCD knows that there is hope and there is help available.”