OCD (You probably DON’T have it)


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It amazes me how many people come into my office having already diagnosed themselves with something or the other. Usually, it’s Bipolar Disorder or OCD.  Then there are those who are quite positive that someone else is a narcissist at the very least, a psychopath at the worst.

Be comforted that the main reason people think every third person on earth has some sort of diagnosis is that the media, the internet, and the pharmaceutical companies have pretty much convinced us that we’re all nuts.

We’re not.

And if you really think you are, PLEASE stop researching your diagnosis of choice on the internet and go see someone who is qualified to help you.

The most common diagnosis people come to me to tell me they have is OCD–Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They think they have it because, usually, they are very particular about neatness and organization.  It takes a little effort to persuade them that these are highly valuable characteristics until/unless they go too far. Any good quality is a problem when it goes too far.  Self-confidence can become narcissism, I suppose.  Friendliness can become Borderline Personality Disorder, a condition that sucks people dry in the name of friendship.

Anyway,  the first part of OCD is obsession, which has to do with the thought processes that lead to compulsive behavior.

Here’s how a normal, but very neat and organized person thinks:  “I have to clean the house and have all the laundry done before I leave for vacation. I hate coming home to a dirty house.”  Her husband, who tends to be a happy slob, tells her she’s being OCD, and when this pattern repeats over and over, she begins to believe he must be right.

He’s not.  He isn’t the one who is going to return from vacation and dig into a huge pile of laundry, a dirty house, and an empty pantry. He’ll happily go to bed to rest up from vacation while she tries to figure out where to start on the work that needs to be done.

That doesn’t make her OCD.  It does make him lazy and thoughtless.

Here’s how obsession works:  “If I don’t have everything in perfect order, someone is going to come visit and see what a horrible housekeeper I am. I have to make sure that never happens.  My cleaning routine can never, ever, be changed. I have to wash clothes every Monday, vacuum on Tuesday, bake on Wednesday, shop on Thursday, change all the beds on Friday, dust the furniture and clean the appliances on Saturday and get the Sunday meals started. If I miss any of these chores, the sky will fall; my children will become seriously ill with some disease carried by a less than spotless bedroom; my mother-in-law will see my lousy housekeeping and talk about me to all her snooty friends. Terrible things will happen.  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.” This person doesn’t keep a clean house because she likes it that way.  She keeps a clean house out of a dreadful fear of some calamity or the other falling on her head. 

The obsessive thinking leads to the compulsive behaviors:  You must iron your pillowcases three times to make sure they’re perfect.  You must check three times to make sure you’ve turned off the iron.  You must turn the faucet off and on three times to make sure it isn’t dripping.  You must check each wastebasket three times or you may miss some tiny piece of trash.  You must run the vacuum under the bed three times; wash your hands three times; rinse the fruit three times; dust the furniture three times, and follow this routine endlessly in order to prevent some horrible outcome.

True OCD   consumes your entire day. You can’t keep a job because it takes you three times longer than it should to accomplish the simplest task. Your happy-go-lucky spouse becomes nervous, angry, or withdrawn. He refuses to allow you to rebutton his shirt three times.

This is true OCD.  Now, don’t you feel better?  You’re just a neatnik, and the world could use more neatniks!


5 thoughts on “OCD (You probably DON’T have it)

  1. Reblogged this on Study God's Word and commented:

    I wrote this piece in response to the Word Press daily prompt, and thought you may enjoy it here, as well. I’ve written about OCD before on this blog, but it’s been a while. You can find those posts under Friday Counseling Issues on the sidebar.


    1. Exactly. Sometimes, the person’s spouse or other family members may throw OCD at them, and they take it very seriously. We need to quit acting as if we know what we’re talking about when we don’t.


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