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Handwashing OCD


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is more than being fussy about small details or cleanliness. It is a painful disorder that involves obsessions and compulsions that severely disrupt your life. These obsessions involve intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that are unwanted and cause intense distress. 

Common types of obsessions can involve contamination, harm, losing control, sexuality, or religiosity among others. Even though you understand that their obsessions are not realistic, they still cause significant fear, anxiety, disgust, doubt, and/or the need for things to be “just right.” Compulsions are actions you use to stop and/or decrease their distress. Common compulsions include checking, washing/cleaning, repeating, orderliness, or mental activities. The compulsions reduce your distress in the short-term but then the obsessions return triggering your distress again thereby triggering your compulsions again. The obsessions and compulsions occupy much of your day significantly disrupting your day-to-day functioning and interpersonal relationships.  


You might find yourself or others tossing around the term OCD in general conversations. Most likely, you are referring to preferences for order or cleanliness that does not cause any major distress other than minor irritation for others. You can easily change your behaviors as needed by the situation and go about your life without your preferences causing any problems. 


However, there is another disorder that has a similar name but is quite different, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). This disorder involves excessive perfectionism and rigid control. They can be so preoccupied with details, rules, and organization that they lose the major point of the activity. Their perfectionism interferes with their ability to complete tasks. They may not participate in leisure activities or friendships due to their excessive devotion to work or productivity despite a lack of financial need. They might have problems throwing out useless objects, be miserly with money, inflexible, rigid, and stubborn. Ironically, OCPD does not entail obsessions as experienced with OCD, but it does significant disrupt their relationships, employment, or social functioning.

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