OCD Chicago

Overcoming OCD
Information for College Students

What Is OCD and How to Recognize It

What OCD Isn't

Almost everyone has experienced worries, doubts or fears at one time or another, or has had an occasional intrusive or “bad” thought. It’s natural to sometimes worry about things such as your health, the well-being of your family or a special someone, studies and exams, or what the future will bring. It’s not even abnormal if you’ve had an intrusive nasty or violent thought about someone who has upset you. That’s not OCD.

OCD is diagnosed when obsessions and compulsions

  • Consume excessive amounts of time (an hour or more each day)
  • Cause significant distress to you and/or others
  • Interfere with daily functioning at work or school, or with social activities, family relationships and normal routines.

When you have OCD, you have obsessive disturbing thoughts and perform compulsive actions (physical acts or mental rituals) that take a considerable amount of time and energy.

When OCD symptoms are present, you need to talk to a knowledgeable mental health professional for evaluation and treatment. Your college or university most likely has a student health center or counseling center - so that’s a good place to start.

What are OCD Symptoms?

One of the best ways to understand OCD is to learn how obsessions and compulsions are linked in OCD behavior.

The obsessions are recurring thoughts, and the compulsions are the actions you do or think -- which make you feel better temporarily.

A few common examples are shown below and more about symptoms can be found here.

Obsessive fear of contamination, dirt, germs Compulsive hand washing, body washing, constantly cleaning your dorm room or apartment, doing laundry many times a week, avoiding touching things others have touched (doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, desks, computer keyboards), avoiding touching other people, avoiding public places such as washrooms, stadiums, classrooms, the library because they are “dirty.”
Extreme dread of uncertainty or an obsessive fear of causing harm (to yourself or others) Compulsive checking that doors or windows are locked, electronic gadgets or computers are turned off; constantly calling, texting or emailing someone you care about to see if he or she is OK; constantly asking for reassurance; a belief that your thoughts can cause something to happen or not happen.
Obsessive fear of loss or losing something important Compulsive hoarding of various things -- most likely these are not useful items (like junk mail, flyers, old study notes, newspapers, food containers, pages printed from web sites -- most anything that causes extreme clutter and you don’t really need).
Obsessive fear of sin or of violating religious rules; fear of offending God Compulsive praying (sometimes to get the wording or the sequence “perfect”), constantly seeking reassurance that you haven’t sinned or God isn’t going to damn you to hell; in some religions, going to confession multiple times a day or praying long hours. This kind of OCD is called Scrupulosity.
Obsessive need for symmetry - fear that objects are not symmetrical Compulsive need to arrange and rearrange objects -- either physically or mentally -- such as, constantly “evening up” every hanger in the closet or what’s on the desk or night stand so it’s perfectly aligned; thinking or saying phrases or words in a certain order for an extended period of time; mentally plotting the arrangement of objects on a grid or streets on a map; arranging and rearranging items by color shade.

Sometimes this is done because of fear that harm will come to someone you love if things are not symmetrical or to keep something bad from happening. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a reason, just a need to align things.
Obsessive need for perfection - fear of “not good enough” Compulsively seeking reassurance from friends, teachers, someone you love; never being able to finish assignments because it has to be “just right” or “perfect;” losing sleep because you can’t finish your homework or never seem to finish studying for that test; trying to “know everything” about a subject, even when the information is trivial or isn’t needed for your class work or exams.

Like with symmetry obsessions, there may be a fear that something bad will happen if things aren’t done well enough or perfectly -- and sometimes no reason behind the need for perfection is obvious.

More OCD Symptoms

Download OCD Guide for College Students

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