5 Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Jul 13, 2023
5 Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is more common than many people think, but the symptoms aren’t always easy to recognize. Here are five signs that you or a loved one may benefit from OCD treatment.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects about 2.5% of people during their lifetimes, causing an array of symptoms that can take a big toll on your life. While OCD isn’t uncommon, it’s not always easy to detect, especially if you don’t know the signs.

Betsy Serrano, PMHNP, is a leading provider of OCD therapies for patients in the Biltmore Corridor area of Phoenix, Arizona, using a patient-centered, customized approach. In this post, learn about five common signs of OCD that can help you decide when it’s time to seek treatment at Cora Health Solutions.

1. Obsessive or intrusive thoughts

Obsessive thought patterns are one of the primary features of OCD. If you’ve ever had a song get “stuck” in your mind, you know how annoying it can be. Obsessive thoughts are similar in that they also intrude unbidden and repetitively. 

The difference is, with OCD, these thoughts tend to be irrational and not grounded in fact or reality. Common obsessions include worries about contamination with germs, fears about safety or self-harm, or unwanted thoughts about aggressive behaviors or even sex. Even though people with OCD may recognize that their thought patterns are irrational, they can’t stop the patterns on their own.

2. Compulsive or repetitive behaviors

Compulsive behaviors are another hallmark of OCD and one that often occurs side by side with intrusive thoughts. In fact, many obsessive thoughts trigger equally obsessive behaviors that act as rituals to prevent an unwanted outcome, ward off danger, or reduce anxiety.

More common OCD behaviors include repetitive handwashing, repetitive touching of a surface, counting, or repeating phrases a specific number of times. While these behaviors may provide a temporary sense of relief from impending anxiety, they don’t “solve” the underlying feelings.

3. Persistent anxiety

People with OCD often exhibit significant anxiety in other areas of their lives. The cycle of obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviors can quickly take a toll on a person’s quality of life and lead to further fears or anxieties about “forgetting” the rituals they feel they need to stay “safe.”

OCD thoughts and behaviors can wind up taking a toll on work, socializing, and personal relationships. Many people with OCD wind up with feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. 

4. Marked need for control

Outside of the cycle of specific behaviors, people with OCD may feel a need to maintain control in other areas of their lives. A person who has OCD might be seen as overbearing, with a seemingly continual need to oversee or “direct” activities or other aspects of their lives or the lives of the people around them. 

Because their lives are more or less dependent on that cycle of thoughts and behaviors, a person with OCD may appear rigid in their thoughts and reluctant to accept other people’s suggestions. Over time, a reluctance or refusal to adapt and accept other people’s ideas can lead to feelings of depression and social isolation.

5. Avoidance behaviors

In a quest to reduce their anxiety or control their environment, some people with OCD exhibit “avoidance behaviors,” essentially avoiding situations that trigger their OCD behaviors. Someone with OCD may cut back on or completely eliminate social activities because of their overwhelming anxiety or inability to control events before they occur.

Some people with OCD avoid social events because they’re ashamed of their compulsive rituals and don’t want to be “found out.” Over time, lack of socialization can lead to feelings of depression and worsening OCD symptoms.

Custom treatment for OCD

OCD symptoms can take a toll on you mentally and physically — but treatment can help. Many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder respond well to antidepressant medications combined with psychotherapy to help them manage anxiety, challenge negative thinking patterns, and “un-learn” repetitive or compulsive behaviors. The key is to work closely with your provider to find the treatment approach that works for you.

If you or a loved one is struggling with OCD, we can help. To learn more, call 602-907-5300 or book an appointment online with Cora Health Solutions today.