understanding ocd

what is ocd?

obsessive compulsive disorder (ocd) is characterized as unreasonable
thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to compulsive behaviors.

what are obsessions and compulsions?

obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. the two obsessions that you've probably heard the most about are fear of germs/contamination and the need to have things in perfect order.

compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. two compulsions that you've probably heard the most about are excessive cleaning and arranging things in a particular way.

before we continue, i would like to make two things clear.

1. intrusive thoughts are UNCONTROLLABLE thoughts that aren't a representation of what someone actually wants/desires. they come out of no where and genuinely distress those who have them.

2. the need to be clean and organized are NOT the only symptoms of ocd, but they are fairly common which is why most people associate ocd with being clean and organized. however, there are an infinite amount of obsessions and compulsions that don't relate to cleaning and organizing, and not all people have obsessions and compulsions that relate to cleaning and organizing. having ocd DOES NOT equate to being neat.

social interactions
how do i interact with someone with ocd?

as i said before, there are infinite forms of ocd, but so far it seems that only seven have been intensely researched, and there are four that are more common. i will go into depth about these four and link an article that talks about all seven.

tw // stabbing, suicide, death, knife mention under doubt & harm

contamination & washing
doubt & harm
symmetry & arranging
unacceptable/taboo thoughts

tw // stabbing, suicide, death, knife, pedophilia mention in the first article

learn about the seven subtypes
learn more about the main four

contamination and washing ocd typically involves excessive concern regarding threat of illness or disease, the feeling of being physically or even mentally unclean. feared contaminates can include anything, not just germs, dirt, and viruses. people with this type of ocd will go out of their way to avoid places and/or situations where feared contaminates may be present.


doubt and harm ocd is when individuals primary obsessions include intrusive images, impulses, and fears related to the possibility of harming themselves or others. their fear of harm is often accompanied by an excessive feeling of doubt, dread, or uncertainty.

tw // stabbing, suicide, death, knife mention

symmetry and arranging ocd, also known as "just right" ocd, is when individuals engange in compulsive behaviors such as repetitive arranging, organizing, or lining up of objects until certain conditions are met. if conditions are not met, individuals may experience intense discomfort.

compulsions such as mental arranging and counting, tapping, and touching behaviors also fall under this subtype.

all of these behaviors can sometimes be accompanied by the belief that a thought can cause an event to happen or not.


this subtype of ocd includes individuals with unwanted obsessions that are often of religious, violent, or sexual nature. this groups compulsions aren't shown as openly as others, which is why they have often been referred to as "purely obsessional." this of course isn't the case. they still have compulsions, they just aren't displayed as openly. their compulsions consist of mental compulsions and reassurance-seeking. more specifically, because their obsessive thoughts severely violate their morals or values, their compulsions may include disrespectful thoughts about religious figures and impulses to do violent things.


the main symptoms of ocd are obsessions and compulsions, but people with ocd may also develop tic disorders.
motor tics: short, sudden, and repetitive movements such as blinking, shoulder shrugging, or head jerking.vocal tics: this can include but is not limited to repititve throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds.

ocd can have a major negative impact on people's social relationships, whether it's with your friends, family, or significant other. here are some reasons why:

people who demonstrate compulsive behavior may be perceived as different or crazy by those who don't understand what they're going throughpeople who can control their compulsions may become agitated if interrupted, which can result in them getting upset with whoever interrupted thempeople with ocd may overthink their relationships (see relationship ocd in the first article under subtypes). this can lead their partner to think they don't care about them as much as they do.many people don't tell their others about their ocd because they're afraid of how they'll react. this can cause people with ocd to feel isolated because they may feel like they are the only person in the world who experiences these thoughts and the need to repeat certain actions, and since they are afraid to tell anyone they may have no one to talk to about this.
ocd also impacts social skills such us:
recognizing how others feel, which can make them feel uncertain about how to respond to othersexpressing their feelings/finding the right words to express themselvestrying to figure out how others will respond to what they say or dobeing flexible/reacting appropriately to changeimpulse controlmanaging their level of aggression

serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) can be used to reduce the symptoms of ocdSRIs are also taken by people with depression, but people with ocd usually need a higher dose, and it could take 8-12 weeks for it to start working
effective therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy and habit reversal therapypeople who don’t respond well to SRIs have been shown to respond well to cognitive behavioral therapies, such as exposure and preventionexposure and prevention is when someone is exposed to something that triggers a compulsion and is prevented from doing said compulsion

just be patient with them, and don't judge them for their obsessions and compulsions. remember, people with ocd have no control over their obsessions and intrusive thoughts, and they often cause people a lot of distress, so don't form your opinions of a person based off of these things. also, don't call people annoying because of their compulsions. can the compulsions be annoying? yes, but i promise you it's more annoying for someone with ocd to do their compulsion than it is for you to experience them doing it. also it's just plain rude to call someone annoying for something they can't control.

thank you for reading and educating yourself on ocd!! if you have any more questions, feel free to dm @seaflwrs on twitter!!