What Is It Like To Live With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can bring feelings of anxiety or shame into many aspects of your life, but there are ways to reduce those feelings. If you have received an OCD diagnosis, chances are you have been feeling uncertain about being told this by a mental health professional, but you are not alone.

OCD does not look the same from person to person, but it can take some common forms, including:
• worries of contamination leading to excessive cleaning
• feeling like items need to be symmetrical or ordered in a certain way
• experiencing impulsive, forbidden, or taboo thoughts
• a desire to hoard and retain items

While the condition can be a challenge, there is hope. Various treatments are available and many people see fewer symptoms following either one or a combination of treatments.

What Does OCD Feel Like?

No matter how your OCD manifests, the compulsions and obsessions tend to be intrusive and dominating. It can be difficult to push them aside or focus on anything else, even if you are aware they are unfounded.

It can be almost impossible to stop the need to perform a certain action – including washing your hands or arranging items – as the desire to do so “just once more” becomes irresistible.

You may feel helpless and out of control which can be overwhelming, upsetting, and disheartening. It can also be difficult to envision a future without these thoughts and compulsions dominating your daily life.

In the long term, having OCD can be tiring, especially if you are trying to hide it from others, and frustrating if it prevents you from partaking in and enjoying everyday activities. For some, the anxiety and upset can snowball into panic attacks.

How OCD Affects Your Life

OCD can be unpredictable and time-consuming, as symptoms can interfere with day-to-day activities such as work or school.

Work – We all find it hard to focus at times, but OCD amplifies this, causing productivity rates to drop and making the simplest of tasks more challenging. You may feel heightened anxiety at being unable to carry out safety behaviors (such as hand washing) as frequently as you would like or worry about what colleagues will think if they catch you engaging in them. In severe cases, fears and compulsions can prevent you from leaving the house to go to work.

Relationships – Loved ones may have trouble understanding your OCD. They may feel unsure on how to react to your compulsions or they could feel pressured to offer reassurance. Another challenge that can arise is that some people with OCD may excessively worry about the safety of their loved ones and therefore demand that they do things a certain way. This can put a strain on relationships.

School – It can be difficult for children and young adults with OCD to concentrate when intrusive thoughts arise. If someone has a fear of not doing something perfectly, they may have trouble finishing assignments. They could also fear that certain classes such as painting or sports will cause them to become contaminated or dirty.

Hobbies – In addition to causing disruption, it might feel like OCD stops you from engaging in hobbies altogether. Fear of being marked by the wool’s dye might prevent you from knitting for example.

Socializing – OCD can make socializing difficult and tiring. Anxious thoughts might prevent you from enjoying yourself. Also being unable to switch off from compulsive behaviors could mean you are often late to events or miss them altogether.

OCD and Other Conditions

Many of those with OCD also experience at least one other mental health diagnosis, and these can vary.

Depression – If you live with both OCD and depression, you are more likely to experience symptoms like guilt and difficulty concentrating. Some research shows that depressive symptoms do not go away with OCD treatment alone. Someone with both might need care for depression in addition to the support they already receive.

Hoarding – The compulsive desire to hoard can be a coping mechanism to manage intrusive thoughts. People with OCD who hoard can also start to feel anxious about inviting others into their home and may become isolated.

Substance Use Disorder – Research suggests that some people who experience OCD are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs. Many turn to substance abuse to help relieve anxieties and stress from their racing thoughts, but compulsive thoughts mean this can evolve into a harmful cycle.

Excoriation – This condition involves regularly picking at the skin until it bleeds, and it is usually done by those with OCD to help relieve stress. The compulsion to do this is often unstoppable, even if you know it is causing pain and harm.

Getting The Right Help For OCD

Medical professionals use a variety of medications and therapies to reduce the signs and symptoms of OCD. Many professionals like Laurian Ward are trained to assist with OCD so you do not need to be afraid to ask how she approaches this condition.

Self-Care Tips and Home Remedies

If OCD causes your mind to continually be filled with anxious thoughts, it can be exhausting. Taking extra steps to maintain your well-being can be helpful.

Movement – Regular exercise is beneficial for overall mental well-being, but there is even more of a reason to get involved. Levels of anxiety and OCD symptoms as well as depression are lower after engaging in some activities.

Mindfulness – Although it can be challenging for those who have OCD to calm their brain, mindfulness techniques can aid in managing and letting go of compulsive thoughts.

Sleep – Getting a good night’s sleep is also important, as bedtime is linked to the perceived difficulty in managing obsessive thoughts.

What’s Next?

You can work with your therapist to put together a treatment program tailored to your unique symptoms. Simply knowing you have plans in place can offer relief. While you may feel overwhelmed and isolated, it is important not to be hard on yourself and recognize that help is available. Although OCD is not likely to resolve completely, many find it manageable. Your life does not have to be dominated by intrusive thoughts and compulsions.