We all have our own personality traits, habits and preferences. Having an organized closet makes it less stressful to get ready in the morning. Looking your best gives you confidence. And double-checking that the doors are locked can put you at ease before bedtime.

These actions and thoughts are reasonable and beneficial. However, if similar thoughts and actions become obsessive and compulsive, resulting in unreasonable actions and even uncomfortable thoughts and feelings,  they may be signs of a serious mental health issue.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that can be difficult to diagnose. We all have obsessive or compulsive thoughts and behaviours at times. When you get new car and you might spend hours making sure every nook and cranny is clean when you wash it. Or you won’t rest until you follow the line of ants in your home to find where they’re coming from and what they’re up to.

To be diagnosed as OCD, the obsessive and compulsive behaviours must reach a point where they consume an unreasonable amount of your time and/or thoughts, interfere with your normal day-to-day activities and become difficult or impossible to control.

Woman uncomfortably waiting on a couch

Potential Signs Of OCD

There are no set tests or rules for determining that obsessive, compulsive thoughts or behaviors are symptoms of OCD. But there are many patterns and tendencies that can be signs of OCD.

1. Compulsive Hand Washing – This can include frequently visiting the washroom just to wash your hands; elaborate or extended hand-washing routines, like washing and rinsing repeatedly; and unavoidable thoughts or fears of germs on your hands even after you’ve just cleaned them.

2. Over Cleaning – Cleaning around the house may be considered compulsive when you continue to clean the same area because it feels like you just can’t get it clean enough; or you clean areas even though they haven’t been used or soiled since the last cleaning.

3. Repeated Checking – If you’re not 100% sure you’ve locked the doors before bed, it makes sense to double-check them. But checking them five, ten or 20 times, potentially reducing your sleep, may be considered an OCD symptom.

4. Unwanted Thoughts – These can be excessive fears and thoughts that force you to change your behaviour to avoid them. Examples include not going to the park because you worry about being attacked, or avoiding a coworker due to the fear that you make a bad impression on the person.

5. Excessive Orderliness – Again, a tidy home can help reduce stress and be more comfortable, so it’s natural to want to keep it organized. But when the desire becomes a need, one that is difficult to control, and results in obsessively organizing beyond the benefits of doing so, it can be a sign of OCD.

6. Constant Counting – Counting your steps on the walk home can help you measure how much exercise you’re getting. But it may be an OCD symptom if you count to yourself as you do everyday tasks, and can’t stop thinking about numbers or numeric patterns.

7. A Need for Reassurance – OCD sufferers can have the need to get repeated reassurances from friends and family about their actions and situations. For example, they might repeatedly ask a friend about their behaviour at a party the night before. Or they might want their friends’ opinions, particularly relating to suspected obsessive behaviours, like “do you think I have too many things in the living room?”

There are many other signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you feel you experience OCD symptoms, please contact BRCook and Associates for a no-obligation discussion.

Bruce R. Cook

I have been a practicing mental health professional for the past 26 years and I have worked in various public and private practice settings throughout the GTA and Ontario. The populations that I work with are adults 18-64 and I have extensive experience working with both individuals on various presenting problems, and also as a couples’ therapist.

I am a certified solution-focused therapist, and I integrate a number of theoretical orientations into my practice including cognitive-behavioural, humanistic, psychodynamic, reality focused therapy. In essence, my experience and style have been dynamically moved into an eclectic approach that best seems to fit the client and their personal needs.
Bruce R. Cook