The pandemic has me worrying about germs 🧫…do I have OCD?
🤔 Not necessarily. OCD can include worries about germs, but can be a LOT more than that. Let’s talk a little bit more about OCD to understand why.
OCD is a chronic mental health condition with typical symptoms including frequent and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive or recurrent behaviors (compulsions). Someone with OCD does not have to have both obsessions and compulsions to meet criteria for OCD. Obsessions include unwanted images, thoughts, or urges that are intrusive and difficult to make go away. The person typically tries to make the obsessions go away by doing something else. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors like washing hands, checking, cleaning, praying or counting – done either because of a difficult thought or obsession or because the person feels that it must be done to feel ok. The person does these compulsions in order to feel better, even if the actions don’t directly connect to what the person is worrying about.
😟 So, even though sometimes people with OCD are concerned with 🦠 germs, it doesn’t mean that if you are worried about germs that you have OCD. And while there are common themes to both OCD obsessions like germ fears, symmetry, fear of harm and themes to compulsions like praying, checking, or routine, presence of these alone does not mean the person has OCD.
🛁 🧽 🧹 In everyday life, people often say things like “I am so OCD” or “This is my OCD” when they mean to describe behaviors more likely associated with a clean, neat, or very particular personality type. But, OCD is extremely distressing for the person experiencing it. It isn’t just a character trait. Having OCD is not just about being neat, rigid, perfectionistic, collecting things, or having specific interests. Some of these characteristics can be present in OCD, but don’t define it. When we think about OCD, we think about how much the person has unwanted thoughts or has to do certain behaviors and how much of their time is occupied by them. People with OCD suffer greatly and often don’t want to burden others with the thoughts on their mind or why they are doing certain behaviors. OCD is difficult to talk about and people with OCD often worry about the unwanted and often disturbing thoughts that come to mind. For the person with OCD, these thoughts and behaviors cannot just be turned on and off. Trying to stop them often makes a person anxious or have more distress.
🗒️ OCD often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, but it is estimated that approximately 1-2% of the population may have OCD. It can also cause significant disability. OCD is influenced by many factors including genetics, environment, stress, and overall health. If you are experiencing some of the symptoms common to OCD, know that it is not your fault and that treatments including therapy and medication can help. Therapy often focuses on exposure to the things that are core to the OCD. A hierarchy is usually created with a therapist and the person works on being exposed to the easiest thing first and then building up. Because someone can have more distress once they start this process, it is important to do this under the guidance of a therapist. Over time, the person learns how to manage the symptoms if they come back. 💊 Medications for OCD are similar to those used for anxiety or depression. The first line treatment is selective serotonin reuptake reinhibitors (SSRIs). It is important to talk to someone who knows which medications work best for OCD because not all medications that are considered antidepressants have been studied in OCD. It is also important to talk to a prescriber about your personal risk for side effects, the appropriate dose, and a plan for starting and stopping medication as medications should be taken daily for at least 6 months to a year to be effective. Both therapy and medication can be helpful, so it is important to choose the right treatment for you.
➡️ If you are concerned that you or a loved one might have OCD, talk to a professional. OCD can present very differently depending on the age of a person and in some cases, can even present in the context of a medical illness. OCD can also be confused with other diagnoses such as autism, anxiety, tics, or psychosis. If you are looking for help, there are several organizations out there that provide education on OCD (links below).
🏽 OCD is a serious condition and is more than just worrying about germs. If you are struggling, know that you are not alone and that it is possible to recover from OCD.
Stay safe. Stay Well.
Those Nerdy Girls
Please note: If you need additional resources in the U.S., Mental Health America (MHA) offers a great way to search for resources. And if you are in need of immediate assistance, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; Hearing Support: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.