Distinguishing Between

Distinguishing Between Habits and Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors

Team Psychiatry

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the most commonly misused mental health terms. People often say, “Oh it’s just my OCD” to explain why they do certain things in a certain order or prefer to organize things in a particular way. But true obsessive compulsive behaviors are often an indication of a real disorder. 

How can you distinguish between habits and obsessive compulsive behaviors? Here’s what you need to know to determine if you or someone you love may benefit from treatment for OCD.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) occurs when a person becomes obsessed with certain fears or anxieties that drive them to repetitive behaviors that temporarily relieve anxiety. These thoughts and behaviors cause a significant amount of stress for the person and even interfere with daily life.  

Examples of Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors 

Here are some examples of obsessive compulsive behaviors: 

  • Excessive cleaning
  • Excessive hand washing
  • Repeated checking – such as checking doors are locked or that the gas is off
  • Repeated counting of items, steps, etc. 
  • Needing to have things in a certain order
  • Constant arranging and rearranging of items 
  • Hoarding (collecting things of little value and refusing to throw them away)
  • Needing to repeatedly ask for reassurance from others
  • Repetition
  • Avoiding places and situations that could trigger obsessive thoughts

Regular Habits That Are Not OCD

The following habits are often confused with OCD, but are likely not associated with a real mental or emotional disorder: 

  • Preferring a clean and tidy home
  • Keeping things appropriately organized 
  • Washing your hands once after going to the bathroom or before eating 
  • Holding onto items of monetary or sentimental value

Diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

If you believe you have obsessive compulsive disorder, the first step is to schedule an appointment with a licensed therapist. After discussing your symptoms a diagnosis can be made and a treatment plan can be created to help you manage your OCD. 

OCD Treatment 

Obsessive compulsive disorder, like most mental disorders, is best treated with a combination of strategies: 

  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy as it is more commonly known, allows the patient to talk about their disorder and learn strategies to change their thought patterns and behavior. 
  • Medication. Medication is also effective at reducing the symptoms of OCD. There are a few different medications that may help reduce anxiety and the obsessive behaviors that are used to cope with the anxiety. 

Where To Seek Treatment for OCD 

South County Psychiatry provides diagnosis and treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder. We have locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island that offer a wide variety of treatment strategies and programs. 

Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment. 

Frequently Asked Questions About OCD

How do I know if my OCD behaviors require treatment? 

If your anxiety and resulting behaviors interfere with your daily activities and prevent you from feeling at peace, then treatment can only improve your situation. The choice to seek treatment is a decision only you can make. 

Can Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Be Treated Without Medication? 

Psychotherapy and behavioral therapy can go a long way toward changing your thoughts and behaviors, and for some people it can be enough. But adding medication to your treatment plan may help you get better results.