When it comes to obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD for short), many individuals’ minds go to obsessive cleaning and a tendency toward order. The reality of OCD, though, is much more complex, and often includes lesser known OCD symptoms, as well. Read on to find out about uncommon OCD symptoms, and how they can fit into this condition’s overall manifestation.
OCD has been recognized as its own, separate mental health condition since the late 1900s. Earlier diagnostic attempts conceptualized OCD as an anxiety-based disorder, with researchers pointing to a tendency toward heightened awareness of stimuli. These days, however, an ongoing debate exists on whether OCD indeed belongs to the anxiety family, or if it stems from distress, which causes those afflicted with OCD to feel a nagging sense of unease.
While the above debate over the origin of OCD continues, the two widely accepted core symptoms of this condition are obsessions and compulsions. As such, OCD is first and foremost defined as a disorder that involves unpleasant, incessant focus on stressful thought content, repeating a particular pattern of behavior, or both.
Though at first, OCD symptoms may be little more than a nuisance in the individual’s life, eventually it can become a time-consuming, extremely frustrating, and exhausting theme that hinders many of their everyday activities.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 2.3% of US adults, as well as 1%-2.3% of U.S. children and adolescents, battle OCD. The disorder can develop at any age, with symptoms usually appearing between age 10 and early adulthood. However, due to difficulty in identifying this condition’s symptoms, patients facing OCD are more commonly diagnosed between ages 14-17 years of age, upon which they may begin receiving treatment.
While the above aspects of OCD are considered more common or easier to spot, the following minor OCD symptoms are also indicative of this condition, and should be considered when assessing an individual’s overall well-being:
Some patients with OCD develop a fixation on a certain physical reaction or function of their body. This can be the act of swallowing, blinking, breathing, etc.
As a result of their OCD, these patients will often incorporate whatever bodily action they are focused on into their compulsive ritual, such as swallowing a set number of times, or swallowing until they feel it was carried out in the “right way,” allowing them to move on to other activities. Such compulsions eventually become so protracted, as to burden their daily routine.
The need for perfection is a key factor in obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (or OCPD), and not necessarily in OCD. That said, perfectionism can still appear among other symptoms of OCD, though its effect on the individual experiencing it is usually different.
In cases of OCPD, the individual themselves tends to see nothing wrong with their uncompromising strive toward perfection, even at the cost of peace of mind, for themselves, and those who must deal with their demands.
Those with OCD who contend with pervasive perfectionism also work meticulously toward doing things in the best possible way, believing that making a mistake will have a grave effect on their lives, their own value, and their worth in the eyes of others. They will, however, be much more aware of the toll their obsession on excellence is taking on their well-being, as well as on the price it takes from those around them.
Harm OCD tends to develop from taboo thinking, which is a common OCD-related obsession. This subtype of OCD creates a great deal of stress over thoughts of hurting someone else or themselves. Such thoughts usually arise in moments of frustration, such as during a wait in line for the restroom, as a manifestation of aggression felt toward someone who has hurt them, or due to a wish to rebel against societal restrictions.
Examples of Harm OCD obsessions are numerous. They include thoughts about driving into oncoming traffic, harming a child under their care, jumping off a balcony, and similar thoughts about actions that would result in serious injury or death.
Those with moral absolutism OCD become obsessed with always acting (and even thinking) in a moral and just manner. Their worldview divides all individuals into either good or evil, preventing them from a more complex understanding of themselves and others.
Moral absolutism often occurs in the context of the individual’s religion, causing them to rigidly and unwaveringly follow the decrees of their religion. This form of moral absolutism is referred to as religion OCD, or scrupulosity.
A mix of sorts between contamination OCD and magical thinking OCD, some individuals with OCD fear that by being near someone they consider evil, amoral, or sinful, they, too will develop those traits. For example, someone with emotional contamination anxiety as part of their OCD may fear that by spending time with a friend who regularly lies to others, they will tend to lie more often as well.
In extreme cases of emotional contamination, where an individual believes they have literally been infected with someone else’s personality, psychosis may be considered, as a more central diagnosis.
Whether an individual presents atypical OCD symptoms or the more common attributes of this condition, the ramifications that OCD has on their well-being can severely impact their ability to relax, achieve peace of mind, and enjoy other aspects of their life.
Seeking professional help is therefore highly encouraged, as it can help alleviate the different symptoms of OCD, and offer a significant improvement in one’s overall condition. If you or a loved one may be struggling with OCD, please speak to a trusted, licensed mental health professional, and start building the treatment course that best meets the needs created by this condition.