What Other Symptoms Might Be OCD?

OCD doesn’t have to rule your life.  If you’re struggling with symptoms like the ones you've read about on this web site, ask your parents to help you get treatment for OCD.  It won’t go away by itself.

OCD symptoms can be as varied as the people who have them.  But there are some “warning signs” 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.

Could any of these situations describe your situation?

  • You take so much time getting dressed in the morning that you’re constantly late for school.  Or between classes, you have to perform certain actions (like checking the lock on your locker) or mental rituals (such as praying, counting, saying certain phrases) over and over again, so you’re late for the next class.  Maybe you have to open and close your locker a certain number of times, or count your steps while you walk down a hallway.  Or when you’re leaving a room, you have to keep going in and out of it until it finally feels OK to leave it.  This could also happen when you’re going up and down stairs – you have to go up and down the stairs so many times in order to feel “right,” that you’re exhausted and late for your ride, the bus, your next class, meals, etc.
  • 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, and trying not to perform the actions that would temporarily make you feel better.  No matter how hard you try to get rid of the thoughts, they just won’t go away.  And you’d be embarrassed if anyone saw you perform your compulsive  actions in class or in public.
  • You’re not able to complete in-class assignments or homework assignments because they’re “not done well enough” or aren’t “right,” and you always seem to run out of time.
  • Your compulsive actions take up so much time at night that, not only is your homework not done, you’re also up so late that you’re not getting enough sleep.  And you’re so tired the next day you can barely make it through your classes.
  • You used to get good grades, but now your grades have really slipped (and you realize it’s because the obsessions and compulsions are getting in the way of studying, participating in class or completing homework assignments).
  • It's almost impossible for you to part with or throw away items because it doesn't "feel right" to get rid of them.  Or maybe you worry that when things touch the floor, they're "contaminated," so you can't pick them up to throw them away.  You may even worry that you've contaminated things you touch in a store, so you buy them to prevent others from getting contaminated.  Or if you have a "magic number," you have to buy everything in multiples of that number.  As a result, things may begin to pile up in your room, locker, or desk.
  • Your uncontrollable fears, worries and unwanted thoughts are severely straining a relationship – at home, with friends, or at school.
  • You’re afraid you might seriously hurt someone because you can’t stop thinking about hurting them, or you keep having violent or bizarre thoughts about harming others.
  • You believe your thoughts can actually cause things to happen or not happen.

If any of this sounds like you (or someone you know), speak up.  As hard as it might be to ask for help or to talk about obsessions and compulsions with your parents or someone at school, living with OCD is much harder.  The sooner you start getting treatment, the sooner you can start being more like the YOU you used to be.

What Other Conditions May Co-exist with OCD?

A number of other mental health disorders frequently occur with OCD.  In fact, most people with OCD have at least one other co-existing disorder.  A trained mental health professional can diagnose and treat these conditions as well as OCD.  Following are several disorders that commonly occur with OCD (descriptions are based upon information from the DSM-5, a manual that provides therapists with official definitions and criteria for diagnosing mental disorders):

Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety disorders are marked by excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral problems.  They include Separation Anxiety Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder (panic attacks), Social Anxiety Disorder and Specific Phobias, such as fear of snakes or heights.

Depression: Symptoms of depression include sadness, a hopeless mood, weight loss or gain, difficulty sleeping, and a loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities that last more than two weeks.

Bipolar Disorders: These disorders, which include Bipolar I and Bipolar II, are characterized by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD): There are three types of AD/HD (sometimes called “ADD”): (1) predominantly inattentive presentation; (2) predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation; and (3) combined presentation.  AD/HD occurs in children, teens, and adults.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): People with ASDs have various levels of difficulties with social communication and social interaction.  They also display restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities (e.g., spinning coins, preoccupation with vacuum cleaners).

Tourette Syndrome (TS) or Tic Disorders: Tics are sudden, rapid, recurring, nonrhythmic motor movements (e.g., blinking, shrugging shoulders) and vocalizations (e.g., sniffing or grunting).  TS involves motor and vocal tics that occur for more than a year and are present before 18 years of age.

Eating Disorders:  These disorders involve serious difficulties with eating or eating-related behavior.  They include anorexia nervosa: constantly limiting food intake that leads to significantly low body weight, fear of gaining weight (or behavior that interferes with weight gain), and a disturbed self-perception of weight or shape; bulimia nervosa: binge eating (episodes of uncontrollable eating) accompanied by behaviors to make up for overeating, such as self-induced vomiting, using laxatives inappropriately, excessive exercising, and overly judging oneself by body shape and weight; and binge-eating disorder: recurrent overeating that is not accompanied by behavior to compensate for overeating.

Several disorders that often co-exist with OCD share many similarities with OCD, including:

Hoarding Disorder: Extreme difficulty parting with/discarding one’s possessions that others would find useless.  The individual with hoarding disorder believes these items are useful, have value, and/or the individual has formed an emotional attachment to them. The need to save these items and the distress associated with getting rid of them lead to an accumulation of items that clutter and obstruct living areas, often making them unsafe or even hazardous.

Note:  Hoarding Disorder is different from collecting or hoarding behavior that is the direct result of the obsessions and compulsions associated with OCD.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): Individuals with BDD are overly focused or preoccupied with what they perceive are one or more flaws in their body (e.g., skin, nose, hair).  Although these flaws cannot be seen or seem very small to others, people with BDD may think of themselves as ugly and are often obsessed with the perceived defect.  Excessive, repetitive behaviors or mental acts are performed in response to these concerns (e.g., excessively grooming, skin picking, repeatedly checking perceived deficits in mirrors).   

Trichotillomania (Hair-pulling Disorder):  Trichotillomania involves the repetitive pulling out of one’s own hair from any area of the body in which hair grows, leading to hair loss, as well as repeated attempts to reduce or stop hair pulling.  Common areas of pulling include the eyebrows, scalp, and eyelids. 

Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder: Excoriation Disorder is repetitive skin picking that results in noticeable (or hidden) damage to the skin (e.g., scabs, sores).  As with Trichotillomania, the individual with Excoriation Disorder has made repeated attempts to reduce or stop skin picking.

Other related disorders: Other body-focused repetitive behavior problems include nail biting, lip biting, and cheek chewing, which are accompanied by attempts to decrease or stop the behavior.

While it may be hard to tell your parents or a teacher you trust that you’re experiencing symptoms that are just “not YOU,” you can get better a lot faster if you don’t keep hiding the symptoms.  You need to be evaluated by a doctor so you can get the right treatment for the right problem.  You owe it to yourself to get better, and get back to enjoying life!

More about treatment for OCD

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