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When does obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) become serious?

Sheri Van Dijk
Psychiatry

We all have little "quirks" and eccentricities. Many people have what could be classified as symptoms of one disorder or another - I recall on the first day of my Abnormal Psychology class in university, the professor instructing us to NOT self-diagnose, because we would likely see many symptoms of many disorders in ourselves!

Symptoms of OCD, as with sympoms of any other disorder, become a problem when they begin to interfere with your functioning. So if you're frequently late for work because of how much time you're spending in the shower, or washing your hands, or checking to make sure the door is locked, the problem is becoming more serious. If you're spending all of your spare time cleaning and you become anxious if you don't get to disinfect the kitchen sink every night, the problem is becoming more serious. If your obsessions are interfering with your ability to concentrate, or are causing such intense emotions that you're having difficulties accomplishing things, the problem is becoming more serious.

OCD can also impact your relationships - when you start making your family engage in certain behaviors because of your obsessions or compulsions (such as stripping down at the front door to avoid contamination, or checking things for you to assure you the appliances are unplugged), the OCD is becoming a problem.

If you have to line up the coaster with the edge of the coffee table as you sit watching TV at night, not such a problem! So think about the degree to which the symptoms are impairing you or disrupting your life.

Watch as Dr. Steven Rasmussen of Brown University Medical School talks about the difference between a strange characteristic and a true medical condition in this video from Discovery Health.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.