What Other Symptoms Might Be OCD?

Noticing what's wrong is a big step towards getting treatment and feeling better.

OCD symptoms can be as varied as the people who have them.  But there are some “red flags” that can indicate OCD or another disorder.  Remember, OCD and other disorders are treatable.  Noticing what’s wrong is a step in the right direction toward getting better.

Does this sound like YOU?

  • OCD takes up so much time in the morning that you’re constantly late for class.  Or between classes, you have to perform certain actions (such as checking your backpack) or mental rituals (such as praying, counting, saying certain phrases) over and over again.  When you’re leaving a room, you might have to keep going in and out of it until it finally feels OK to leave.  This could also happen when you’re going up and down stairs – you have to go up and down the stairs a certain number of times in order to “feel right.”
  • You try to know everything or remember everything.  No one you know studies like you do.  “Normal” studying isn’t good enough for you.  You spend a ton of time rereading, rewriting and rechecking everything multiple times so you won’t make a mistake.
  • You have a lot of trouble paying attention in class or concentrating on homework assignments because you’re constantly thinking about your fears or “bad” thoughts.  No matter how hard you try to get rid of the thoughts, they just won’t go away.  And you’re trying not to perform the rituals that would temporarily make you feel better; you’d be mortified if anyone saw you perform these rituals in class or in public.
  • You’re not able to complete in-class assignments or homework assignments because they’re never “done well enough” or  “perfectly” and you always seem to run out of time.
  • You worry that you didn’t actually complete a test or assignment, or that maybe you missed going to class entirely.  It doesn’t make sense, because you’re sure you did go to class or do the test.  But you still worry about it.
  • Your rituals take up so much time at night that not only is your homework not done (and maybe your roommate is fed up with you), but you’re also up so late you’re not getting enough sleep.  And you’re so tired the next day you can barely make it through your classes.
  • You worry that somehow you might have been dishonest, or even cheated inadvertently on a test.
  • You used to receive good grades, but now your grades have slipped.  And you realize it’s because your obsessions and compulsions are getting in the way of studying, participating in class or completing homework assignments.
  • Your uncontrollable fears, worries and unwanted thoughts and rituals are severely straining relationships with any number of people on campus: friends, roommates, classmates, teachers, the dorm manager or residence hall advisor or a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • You’re afraid you might seriously hurt someone because you can’t stop thinking about hurting him or her, or you keep having violent or bizarre thoughts about hurting others.
  • You’re praying all the time, but you still feel God is mad at you or you’ve done something bad.  The prayers have to be done perfectly, so if anyone interrupts you, you have to start over again.  You may be afraid that you will blurt out some obscenity in church.  You might even have bizarre thoughts involving violence or sex and a religious figure.
  • You're constantly cleaning your room or doing laundry.  What happened to going out and having fun?  Now you don't have time because everything feels so dirty.  Maybe you're avoiding class because people cough and sneeze without covering their mouths, and everything is covered with germs.
  • For some reason, you’ve been having thoughts of late that you might be gay.  This doesn’t make sense, because you’ve always been a heterosexual.  But these fears have caused you to stop watching movies;  you’re afraid you might be attracted to a person of the same sex as you.  Or if you are gay, you’re starting to have serious concerns that you’re becoming a heterosexual.
  • You have serious concerns about discarding any of your old papers or study notes.  You can’t think of any logical reason why you can’t get rid of them, but somehow, it just wouldn’t “feel right” if you did.  The problem is that papers are beginning to pile up in one corner of your dorm room, and your roommate is starting to get upset with the “mess.”

Other Related Symptoms

Most people with OCD have one or more disorders that aren’t OCD, but may be related to or occur along with OCD – referred to as “comorbid” disorders.  These include depression, attention-deficit disorders, tic disorders (body, facial or vocal twitches or sounds) such as Tourette Syndrome, bipolar disorder, panic disorder (“panic attacks”) or feeling alienated from everyone else.  A mental health professional will be able to evaluate your symptoms to determine whether you have OCD and any other co-existing disorders.  It’s important to seek help so you can get relief.  Here are some symptoms of other disorders that may be comorbid with OCD:

  • You’re so distressed over your appearance that you simply can’t go to class or face anyone, including your friends.  You’re miserable about how you look. Maybe you’ve stopped going out altogether.
  • It may seem you’ve always been concerned about your weight, but now you’re “obsessed” with it, constantly reviewing your appearance. Maybe you’re hardly eating anything, or making yourself vomit after a meal to keep from gaining weight.
  • You secretly pull out hair, bite your nails, or pick at your skin.  At first, you didn’t worry too much about it, but now you’re starting to see some “bare” spots in your hair.  Or your nails are so bitten so far down that they bleed.  Maybe you’ve picked at your skin so much that you’re starting to develop “sores,” but you continue to pick, nonetheless.  You’re afraid people will notice, but you can’t stop.

If any of these descriptions sounds like you (or someone you know), speak up.  As hard as it might be to ask for help or talk about obsessions and compulsions with anyone, living with OCD (or a related disorder) is much harder.  And it won’t get better if you don’t get treatment.  The sooner you start getting treatment, the sooner you can start being more like the YOU you used to be.

In order to receive appropriate treatment, it’s important to distinguish between OCD and other disorders.  Read more about what symptoms and behaviors AREN’T OCD or might be characteristic of related conditions:

What OCD Isn’t

Related Conditions

Treatment for OCD

More Resources

Back to Information for College Students


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