13 Subtle Signs Of OCD — And What To Do About It

Photo: getty
13 Subtle Signs Of OCD — And What To Do About It
Health And Wellness

Do you have OCD and don't realize it?

Did you know that 1.2 percent of Americans suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? That might not sound like a lot, but it’s about the same number of Americans that live in Los Angeles.

OCD and OCD symptoms can be hard for therapists to recognize, as well as for those who suffer from it. In fact, I’ve diagnosed people who’ve had OCD for decades but didn’t know that’s what the problem was.

RELATED: How To Tell If You Have OCD Or 'Obsessive Compulsive Disorder' — And How To Control Your Symptoms

So, how can you know if you have OCD?

Here are 13 subtle symptoms of OCD, and what you can do about it.

1. You have relationship obsessions.

It’s normal to have doubts about your romantic relationship at times. If you have OCD, these doubts may lead to constant anxiety.

You may become fixated on whether you really love your partner, or whether you truly know if they are “the one” for you. These obsessions can be so unsettling they can cause you to end a relationship just to be rid of the anxiety.

2. You compulsively wash your hands.

It’s good to wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom, as well as before preparing food.

Do you often have trouble limiting hand washing to the recommended 20 seconds? Do you often not feel right unless you wash your hands repeatedly?

3. Door- and oven-checking.

If you check the stove, oven, or door before leaving home, it probably doesn’t impact your day much. But if you need to spend significant time repeatedly checking, it may be a sign of OCD.

4. Counting.

Compulsive counting can be a frustrating symptom of OCD. Often, the counting is of random objects you see around you, and feels involuntary.

5. Contamination concerns.

In the age of COVID-19, it’s good to think about how you can stay safe from virus exposure.

However, if you take more drastic steps than most people to avoid germs (coronavirus or otherwise), HIV, sexually transmitted infections, or other illnesses, it may be a symptom of OCD.

6. Superstitious thinking.

All of us are prone to superstitious thinking now and then. But if this kind of thinking plays an outsized role in your life, it could be OCD.

Sometimes, this takes the form of certain numbers feeling "bad" or unlucky, which can lead to avoiding anything to do with those numbers.

7. Rule-following.

Usually, it’s good to follow the rules! In some cases of OCD, however, rule-following becomes an unhealthy obsession that can drastically affect your life.

This symptom is often centered on religious rules, but not always.

RELATED: A Slave To Control: A Look Inside My Agonizing Battle With OCD

8. Needing to feel “just right.”

This symptom involves the need to do something repeatedly until it feels “just right.” This feeling can be either physical or mental, and it feels important to achieve it before you can move on.

9. Seeking reassurance.

This common symptom of OCD involves asking a loved one (or the internet) to assure you that something you’re afraid of isn’t true.

Granted, we all like being reassured by our loved ones. However, if you have OCD, asking for reassurance can become a habit that feels increasingly essential for you to move on from anxiety, and can hurt your relationships with loved ones.

10. Harm obsessions.

These are fears that you have harmed or will harm others without meaning to.

For example, wondering if you accidentally hit a pedestrian on your morning commute and didn’t notice, or fearing that you’ll punch an elderly person when walking down the street if you don’t put your hands in your pockets.

11. Re-reading.

You've likely had the experience of reading a paragraph, then realizing you were distracted, and thus rereading it.

For some people with OCD, this can become more the norm than the exception. It makes getting through a book or news article extremely time-consuming, or even impossible.

12. Mentally reviewing conversations.

OCD can also take the form of repeated mental efforts to review conversations that happened earlier. Often, this is done with the goal of making sure you didn’t say anything offensive or dumb.

This happens despite the fact that you didn’t get any negative reactions from others during the conversation.

13. Sexual-orientation obsessions.

The thought that your sexual orientation is different from what you’d always thought it was can become a troubling obsession for some people with OCD.

This is a different issue than coming to terms with a given sexual orientation — though the two can be difficult to distinguish.

What should you do if you have one or more of the warning signs?

As you can tell from the list above, OCD can be easy to identify or very difficult, depending on the symptoms.

If any of the items on the above list are a problem for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have OCD.

It is, however, recommended that you consider getting an evaluation from a mental health professional with experience diagnosing OCD. This can provide helpful clarity on the nature of the problem — whether or not it turns out to be OCD.

The recommended treatments for OCD are either a specific form of therapy called exposure and response prevention or certain medications. Both types of treatment have been shown to be significantly helpful.

For a directory of providers who treat OCD, try this resource from the International OCD Foundation.

RELATED: What It's Really Like To Live With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, According To People Who Have OCD

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Paul Greene, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and the director of the Manhattan Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

Author
Expert