OCD: Simple Anxiety versus Harmful Behaviors - PIH Health

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Published on June 06, 2016

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder: Simple Anxiety versus Harmful Behaviors

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive DisorderObsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “unreasonable thoughts or fears (obsessions) that lead [a person] to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions).” OCD can occur to anyone at any stage in life including children as young as six years old. Behaviors may be harmful to a person’s health if proper care isn’t received for serious compulsive habits. However many people have some form of anxiety that occurs throughout the day that isn’t harmful at all. It is important to recognize the difference between behaviors that are harmful and those that are not.

According to Stanford’s School of Medicine, “Most of us, at one time or another, have experienced some or many of the OCD and related symptoms. However, to be considered clinically significant, the obsessions or compulsions must cause significant distress or interfere with the person’s social or role functioning and must occupy more than an hour per day.”

There are many common obsessional themes pertaining to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some themes include: fear; order; symmetry; control; hoarding; and unwanted thoughts. And like obsessional themes, there are usually compulsive behaviors that follow. Some compulsive behaviors include: checking; cleaning; counting; exactness; and repeating.

Many people have a habit of triple checking door locks at night or maybe even washing something more than once because they simply can’t remember. This doesn’t mean a person has obsessive-compulsive disorder. The important thing to remember is that if you have anxiety that is causing you significant distress and interfering with daily living, you may want to seek professional help. Your physician is a good place to start, even if it’s just a phone call to talk about what problems you are having.

“The sooner you come in to see someone, the faster you can get treatment and the better your prognosis is; the better your ability is to recover and to regain your function and control of your life.” said Jaime Garcia MD, psychiatrist, PIH Health Physicians. If you or a loved one may have a serious medical condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder, call your physician to discuss symptoms. 

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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