Do I have OCD or just anxiety?

Your OCD does not have to control your life. By facing it head on, you can overcome it, and live your life they way you want.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. It involves obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. But it can be difficult to identify, especially if you are trying to notice the signs in yourself.

What does OCD look like?

OCD will look different for everyone who struggles with it. You may only exhibit obsessive thoughts OR compulsive behaviors, rather than both. And your thoughts and compulsions can vary drastically as well. Some obsessive thoughts include:

  • Fear of germs
  • Fear of hurting yourself or others
  • Intrusive violent thoughts
  • A need for everything to be in the “right place”
  • Superstitions

And some possible compulsions are:

  • Persistent washing and cleaning
  • Frequent checking on family and friends to ensure they’re safe
  • Double-checking things over and over (light switches, oven dials, front door locks, etc.)
  • Ordering things to be “just right”
  • Hoarding

There are other potential obsessive thoughts and compulsions that you may exhibit. And you may exhibit some of these, on an irregular basis, without having OCD. It’s not uncommon to worry once in a while about whether you forgot to turn off the stove.

But you may have OCD if those thoughts and behaviors begin to affect your daily life. If they become so consistent that they cumulatively take up at least an hour of your day.

You may wonder if you just have anxiety. The symptoms of OCD and generalized anxiety disorder are indeed similar.

But while there is some gray area, obsessive thoughts that are based in reality tend to fall under generalized anxiety. Especially when there is a lack of compulsive behavior. For example, if you have recurring worries about social interaction, rooted in a fear of judgment, that would be considered “based in reality.”

In contrast, you may have recurring thoughts that are based on unrealistic concerns.  Maybe a fear that you will hurt yourself or others, even when you have no desire to actually do so. This (often, but not always, combined with compulsions) may suggest OCD rather than anxiety. It is also possible for the two to be co-occurring.

OCD treatment - What is the best therapy for OCD?

Identifying these distinctions may help direct you towards the type of support you need. But it’s important not to rely on self-diagnosis.

Anxiety disorders are complex, and have a lot of overlap. So if you suspect you have OCD, or any anxiety disorder, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

You may figure that if you can just push your obsessive thoughts to the side, that they’ll start to go away. Sadly, the opposite is true.

Like with other anxiety disorders, OCD will only worsen if left unaddressed. If you suffer from intrusive, negative thoughts, pushing them away will only give them more power in your mind.

How do I find a good OCD therapist?

This is where therapy comes in. Besides confirming your diagnosis, we will also guide you through treatment. Medication is often a component. But cognitive-behavioral therapy is the key. It consists of exposure and response prevention (ERP) and cognitive therapy.

Cognitive therapy involves identifying recurring thoughts, and learning to address them in healthier ways. This is similar to how generalized anxiety is treated.

ERP is also sometimes used in treatment of generalized anxiety. But it is especially effective in treatment of OCD. It involves slow, controlled exposure to your obsessions, and not responding with the compulsions that you normally use.

You will go at your own pace. The goal is to help you address your OCD head on, and eventually learn that nothing bad happens when you don’t act on your compulsive thoughts or behaviors.

This may take time, and patience with yourself. But you are more than capable of making these changes for yourself. And we will support you in this process.

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