How Do I Know if I Have OCD?

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Symptoms and Characteristics of OCD

OCD has received a fair amount of exposure through the media and many people are aware of the signs and symptoms. However, it is an intimidating thought to think you may be suffering from it yourself. A common question asked is “how do I know if I have OC?” The following definitions will help a person determine the answer to this question:

  • Obsessions are defined as recurrent thoughts, impulses and images that cause anxiety or distress. They may be deemed as inappropriate.
  • In an effort to suppress the obsessions, the person may attempt to ignore them. If this does not work, they may try and neutralize them by thoughts and actions.
  • The obsessive thoughts and actions are recognized as being produced by their own minds and not imposed from an external source.
  • Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person feels compelled to perform in order to counteract their obsessions.
  • The person will recognize that their behavior is unreasonable but feel powerless to stop the cycle.
  • The obsessions and compulsions will normally be time consuming in that they take up at least an hour each day. They may interfere with a person’s employment and personal life.

How do I Know if I have OCD?

OCD manifests in many different ways and affects people in varying degrees. Here is a list of some of the more common behaviors that are part of OCD:

  • Obsessions often incorporate themes of harm or injury to yourself or another person.
  • Some obsessions involve violent or sexually inappropriate thoughts that intrude on a person’s mind.
  • The sufferer fears losing control and harming themselves or others.
  • Compulsions may be mental or physical but are all performed in an effort to counteract the obsessions. They may provide temporary relief but the cycle will continue to repeat itself.
  • Mental compulsions involve counting, praying and confessing
  • Physical compulsions include hand washing and excessive cleaning, checking that doors are locked and appliances are off, ordering items by color, name or size, and hoarding
  • Compulsions are normally carried out in a precise manner and if a person is interrupted, they may have to start the process again.
  • If the compulsions are interfered with, a person may become extremely distressed.
  • In health-related OCD, a person fears becoming ill and repeatedly checks him or herself for signs of illness. They may be a frequent visitor to the doctor’s surgery and the local emergency room.

While many people engage in some of the above behaviors, they do not necessarily suffer from OCD. The difference is the motivation. OCD sufferers perform their rituals to reduce discomfort whereas other people may do the same thing to produce pleasure or gratification.

If asking the question, ‘how do I know if I have OCD’, the best thing to do is analyze your symptoms and motivations carefully. If you suspect you are suffering from OCD, make an appointment with your doctor as there is help available.


Coping with OCD, Bruce M Hyman and Troy Dufrene, Raincoast Books, 2008

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Help for Children and Adolescents, Mitzi Waltz, O’Reilly & Associates, 2000