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Spotlight on OCD Orderers and the Urge to Organize

written by: Debbie Roome • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 4/20/2011

OCD encompasses a number of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. There are hoarders, checkers, washers and in this article we'll look at OCD orderers, people who have the urge to arrange things in particular patterns.

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    What are OCD Orderers?

    OCD ordering is diagnosed when a person feels compelled to frequently order items. This can occur in children and adults and may reach debilitating proportions. A person may order in an attempt to counteract a persistent obsession or fear that may involve sickness, bodily harm or death. On the other hand, they may order because it is the only way that they can feel momentary peace about themselves and their lives. Here are some of the ways a person may engage in ordering behavior:

    • Ordering is often just as it is described – the act of arranging items into a specific order or sequence. This includes stacking them by size, brand, color or contents. For example, a person may spend hours arranging CDs into alphabetical order or grouping their clothing by color and size.
    • Some people order by symmetry and balance.
    • Ordering activities often become time consuming and may reach a place where they infringe on employment and family time.
    • OCD orderers are often aware that their actions are not logical, yet they seem unable to stop their rituals.
    • If another person disturbs the ordering process or rearranges ordered items, the OCD sufferer may react with extreme anger and agitation.
    • Once items have been ordered, a person normally experiences a measure of relief. However, this is short lived as the OCD orderer is never completely satisfied with their work; the cycle will soon start again and their obsessions result in another period of ordering.
    • Family members may unwittingly enable the orderer’s behavior by allowing them to order at will and also by ensuring their ordering is not touched. Although this may result in a more peaceful household, it does not help OCD orderers towards recovery.
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    Treatment Options for OCD Orderers

    There are various forms of treatment available to people with OCD. In many cases, health professionals recommend a combination approach of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):

    • Medications commonly prescribed include tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These are useful in subduing anxiety while the person undergoes CBT.
    • CBT involves examining the person’s obsessions and compulsions and training them to think in a different manner which results in new behavior patterns. This is achievable while the obsessions and compulsions are under control by medication. In the case of ordering, the CBT will focus on leaving ordering undone and clothes, CDs and other items scattered in random order. The therapy will result in the assurance that the person does not need to order them in order to feel good about life.

    OCD orderers are often frustrated by their inability to control their need to place things in order. They can be helped but will need to work with a therapist and doctor until they come to a place where they control their obsessions and not the other way around.

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    References

    Coping with OCD by Bruce M Hyman and Troy Dufrene, New Harbinger Publications, 2008

    OCD Symptoms.co.uk, http://www.ocdsymptoms.co.uk/obsessive-tidiness.html