So often we hear the chanty words “oh that’s just my OCD.” Is it really? And the answer to that is no.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) isn’t little ticks or habits. It’s not being a neat freak or perfectionist.

It’s a mental disorder that causes you to obsess over specific things or occurrences and the repetition of rituals.

When an individual that actually hears people throwing around the idea doing something because of their OCD in light, it takes away from the seriousness of those that suffer and struggle with OCD on a daily basis.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD is a mental illness. And no, everyone does not have it. Those who have OCD try to avoid situations that would cause them to be obsessive, because it’s not fun or cute; it’s something that can’t be helped to do or see. The compulsion side is ways that are used to help minimize or get rid of anxiety or worry. And yes, they can be embarrassing.

According to PsychCentral, “Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by having either obsessions or compulsions (though most individuals with the disorder have both) that are time-consuming.”

Ok, so let’s digest that a little bit. An individual can suffer from being obsessive, compulsive, or both. It’s most common that those who suffer from OCD suffer from both, but it can also be one or the other.

Obsessions in OCD

Obsessions are when someone is totally overwhelmed or enveloped in something, a place, an idea, etc. It literally takes all of their thought and concentration from the present and focuses on the obsessed thing.

PsychCentral defines obsessions as including both “recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress (they are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems)” and “the individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action (i.e., by performing a compulsion).

An example, when I get hot, more specifically inside a building or car, I obsess over the idea that there isn’t enough air to breath. Or even working, my office felt small and closed in and I’d be silently panicking over air in my office, until I could no longer work in my office. I can’t feel or hear the air circulating, which in turn leads me down a scary path. I begin freaking out and start the onsets of panic attacks. I start sweating and breathing heavy and crying. And then my stomach starts hurting and nausea comes.

Personally, I handle my example by trying to only ride alone or be the driver in my own car. I don’t like going places, especially if I am going to be stuck in there or there will be a lot of people. And I’m medicated.

Compulsions in OCD

Compulsions are the ticks that individuals with OCD use to relieve stress or anxiety. It could be a number of different things for one person. The possibilities of the compulsion(s) are endless.

So how does PsychCentral describe compulsions? They explain that compulsions are both “repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly” and “The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress, or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent, or are clearly excessive.”

For example, a few of my compulsions are making scabs and scars in my hair and on my arms and legs; I’m also a nail biter,  if I leave home I have to have a hair band on my wrist and my ring on my ring finger.  These compulsions are my safety. They help me reduce my anxiety, but many aren’t healthy and are embarrassing. Like every time I go to the hair dresser. Or when I where shorts and the bottom half of my legs are scarred.

What Else Should You Look For?

As though those aren’t quite enough, PsychCentral continues on to explain that there are 3 additional things to be considered.

  1. “The obsessions or compulsions cause significant distress or interfere with the person’s normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or usual social activities or relationships.”
  1. “Importantly, obsessive-compulsive actions are time-consuming (take more than 1 hour a day).”
  2. “If another disorder is present, the content of the obsessions or compulsions is not attributable to it.”

The Takeaway

OCD is a real mental disorder that affects many people. And those affects are in an array of different areas.

I hope this makes you think a little bit more about using that common phrase.


Camille is one of the content writers and Mental Health & Lifestyle Editor for Tribe Twenty One. She is a freelance writer and has her Bachelor’s in Marketing and Master’s in Organizational Communications from Southeastern Louisiana University. When Camille isn’t writing or editing, you can find her reading, riding her bike, and playing video games

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