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How to Tell If You Have OCD: What You Should Know

How to Tell If You Have OCD: What You Should Know

Sometimes just going through your day can be difficult. For some people, however, it can be twice as challenging, especially if you have intrusive thoughts that try to ruin your routine. People with OCD are stuck with these kinds of thoughts. These thoughts can occur out of nowhere, are repetitive, and most of the time seem irrational. It can be very hard to identify if you have OCD, as sometimes the symptoms are minimal and mild. That is why it is important to know how to tell if you have OCD.

What is OCD?

Nowadays, it’s common for people to define possible OCD as merely an obsession with cleanliness and organizing. That is why people with OCD are now finding it more difficult to define and understand their behavior.

OCD has often been misunderstood, so much so that we typically associate it with those who are just particularly orderly. That is why it is important to know what it really means to have OCD.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a chronic mental health condition where a person experiences uncontrollable and recurring thoughts (obsessions) that makes them feel obligated to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

OCD can interfere with a person’s daily life, as these obsessions and compulsions hinder them from moving freely without interruptions.

Read on for the symptoms of this condition and how to tell if you have OCD.

Symptoms of OCD

Going to a medical professional is the best way on how to tell if you have OCD. That is why, if you experience the following symptoms of OCD, go get checked immediately so your condition can be addressed properly.

How to tell if you have OCD: Obsession symptoms

Obsessions in OCD are exaggerated and uncontrollable thoughts, worries, fears, and concerns that constantly preoccupies a person’s mind. These obsessions can cause anxiety and distress to the person who has OCD.

How to tell if you have OCD? Symptoms of obsession include:

  • Fear of being contaminated with germs, dirt, poison, toxins, and other lethal substances that can be found anywhere. That is why there are people with OCD who are afraid to even shake other people’s hands.
  • Another sign of how to tell if you have OCD is when you have unsettling thoughts about sex, religion, or violence.
  • Fear of trauma from sickness, accidents, or death that might happen to oneself, to loved ones, and others. People with OCD also have a strong sense of responsibility from preventing these harmful events from occurring.
  • Excessive anxiety towards getting things in perfect order and symmetry.
  • Violent thoughts about losing control or inflicting harm on oneself or others.
  • Excessive concerns about remembering things such as locking the door and turning off the faucet or the stove.

how to overcome anxiety triggers

How to tell if you have OCD: Compulsion symptoms

Compulsions are mundane behaviors that a person with OCD feels forced to perform. These compulsive acts are intended to pacify obsessive thoughts, concerns, and fears. Compulsions also help those with OCD relieve themselves from anxiety caused by obsessions.

How to tell if you have OCD? Symptoms of compulsion include:

  • Hoarding.
  • Excessive washing such as hand washing until hands become sore and brushing the teeth until gums bleed out.
  • Cleaning the house spotless and excessively disinfecting or polishing every household item, the car, and every single thing a person with OCD owns.
  • The most common symptoms on how to tell if you have OCD is when you repetitively check door locks, stovetop, faucet, lights, and other things that are related to safety and hazards.
  • Keeping things in strict order or pattern such as color-coding clothes, fixing up furniture and equipment as well as organizing items in perfect symmetry like pencils, cans, photos, and others.
  • Repetitive actions such as re-reading the same page of a book over and over again and opening and closing the door.
  • Tapping, moving, or touching things for a specific number of times or a certain pattern.
  • Mumbling phrases, numbers, or names multiple times.
  • Asking questions frequently for reassurance that their fears won’t become reality.

Causes of OCD

The main causes of OCD are still not clear.

According to the diathesis-stress model, a person may develop a mental health disorder due to an interaction between their predispositional vulnerabilities, and stress from the environment. For instance, OCD may be a combination of family history, one’s personality traits, and past traumatic experiences.

Some factors that might contribute to how a person develops OCD, these include:

  • Family history. If one of your family members has OCD, it is more likely for you to have the same condition. Although the specific genes that might cause OCD are yet to be identified, this might be one of the main factors in how a person gets this disorder.
  • Brain differences. Changes in the brain’s chemistry and functionality might result in OCD.
  • Learnings. OCD behaviors can be learned from activities that are frequently observed from a family member or other people.
  • Past traumatic events. Traumatic experiences such as accidents, bullying, abuse, and neglect, might also cause a person to develop OCD.
  • Underlying mental disorders. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be related to other underlying mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, and tic disorders.
  • Personal character. A person’s innate trait of being neat, organized, meticulous, perfectionist, and having a strong sense of responsibility can result in the development of OCD.

How to tell if you have OCD?

How to tell if you have OCD? To help you determine whether you have OCD or not, these processes might help diagnose your condition:

  • Psychological evaluation. This medical evaluation is the best way on how to tell if you have OCD. The psychological evaluation involves a medical professional, a psychiatrist, or a psychologist. A psychological evaluation is where you share your experiences, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. This is when the medical professional will determine whether you’re having obsessive or compulsive behaviors.
  • Diagnostic criteria for OCD. Medical professionals might refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for them to diagnose if a patient has OCD or not.
  • Physical examination. This routine test is essential for doctors to rule out conditions that might be causing your behavior. Physical examination also checks if other medical conditions result in these patterned behaviors.

Treatments for OCD

The following treatments might help alleviate the symptoms of OCD:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This is talk therapy aimed to change someone’s way of thinking and behavior that might stimulate OCD symptoms.
  • Schema therapy. This addresses schemas that may have formed during one’s childhood. Schemas are enduring negative relationship patterns which affects a person throughout their life.
  • Anxiety management techniques. These are treatments that help people with OCD to deal with their symptoms through meditation, breathing techniques, and others. These treatments are best paired with cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Medications. Your medical provider might prescribe antidepressants if your OCD symptoms critically hinder you from functioning well. Always remember not to self medicate and always consult your doctor before trying any medication.
  • Mental health support groups and mental health education. Support groups may help not only the people with OCD but also their families. These groups provide comfort and education for individuals who are still exploring their condition.

OCD is a chronic disorder, which means it can come back as fast as it went away and vice versa. These treatments are not a permanent cure for OCD but provide relief from its symptoms. Poor prognosis is also seen in many personality disorders. As of today, the cure for OCD is still unknown.

Prevention and management of OCD

Once you understand how to tell if you have OCD, the next question is how to prevent and manage the condition.

It is unknown if OCD can be prevented. However, there are ways people with OCD can manage their condition. These include:

  • If you can, try to do things that might distract you from your obsessions and compulsions. Activities such as exercising and playing video games might help you ignore the urge of doing these unwanted behaviors.
  • Take note of your behaviors. This will help you see what actions you always do as well as how and when you do them. Doing this will be helpful for your doctor in determining what triggers your condition.
  • When you’re about to do something that might cause compulsions at a later time, pay extra attention to it. A good example is when you turn off the faucet, be extra mindful of how you do it so that when your compulsion kicks in, you would know it’s just a thought in your head.
  • Allot a specific time during your day to your obsessions and compulsions. For you to get your day moving without worrying about your thoughts and urges, keep a checklist whenever these behaviors are kicking in, and schedule them at the later time of the day. This will help you live a little better and address your OCD at the same time.
  • Although OCD is more than a handful to handle, always keep in mind to take care of yourself. Take all the treatments and medications your doctors instruct you to take and don’t forget that you are not alone.
  • You can use apps to help manage the condition. Apps may be an affordable and accessible way to manage disorders.

Key takeaways

OCD is not a topic someone must glorify. It is a serious condition, which disrupts a person’s normal life. How to tell if you have OCD? Observe for obsession and compulsion symptoms.

While there is a stigma around OCD, patients need non-judgemental and compassionate care. If you or someone you know suffers from OCD, there are treatments available that might help you manage your condition better. Do not forget to seek help if you’re having trouble.

Learn more about Other Mental Health Issues here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354438 Accessed August 3, 2020

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/obsessive-compulsive-disorder Accessed August 3, 2020

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ocd/what-is-obsessive-compulsive-disorder Accessed August 3, 2020

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml Accessed August 3, 2020

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/ Accessed August 3, 2020

OCD Apps, https://iocdf.org/ocd-apps/ Accessed June 7, 2021

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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated Jun 07
Expertly reviewed by Jessica Espanto, LPT, MA, RPsy