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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Do I have OCD?

    I have always been a bit of a checker of things since i was younger, i am now 30 and am constantly checking things, not a certain number of times just until i feel calm that i have checked it enough times. Things like setting 4 alarms and reading them out several times until i'm comfortable they are set. Making sure doors are locked, turning handles over and over, the oven, hair straightener. I even do this at work and then even though i know its locked or off or whatever, when i leave that place i still worry is it on or unlocked. I'm just wondering if this is OCD or if i'm just weird. Its like i know its silly to keep checking but i get very anxious if I don't do these things. I really don't want this to affect my daughter as she notices me doing this. Do i need help?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2

    Thanks

    Dr Paul McQueen

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    While what you describe fits a number of features of OCD it is useful to understand that a diagnosis of OCD - as with all mental health conditions - requires that symptoms cause significant interference with functioning or relationships in some way. In the case of OCD the current DSM-5 criteria is worded this way:

    "The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming (e.g., take more than 1 hour per day) or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning."

    OCD tends to be seen in something of a spectrum. Probably all of us have some habits or patterns of thought or behaviour that are OCD-like. I think the question really is "do these symptoms matter for me or for people I care about?" For you, the question of whether this could affect your daughter will likely be a factor in answering that question.

    It is likely that your patterns of behaviour will affect your daughter to some degree - but that could range from her just thinking "mum stresses about funny things sometimes" and mostly shrugging it off, to her adopting similar patterns of behaviour. OCD is a disorder involving anxiety, and there is evidence of both genetic inheritance of anxiety symptoms and "learned" anxiety from observation of adult behaviour. But these are just some of many factors that will influence whether a person struggles with anxiety. I would think it is likely that worrying about your behaviour rubbing off on your daughter or affecting her in some other way will create more anxiety for you than it will help you or her in any way.

    As far as the question, "Do I need help?", I would consider maybe thinking about it a little differently: Would learning to check things less help me or people I care about? It might be that it doesn't cause enough interference in your life to be worth the stress or energy you would spend challenging your checking. On the other hand, you might conclude that, whether or not you "have" OCD, it might be worth learning to let go a little and feeling confident to confront and tolerate the anxiety created by not checking so much.

    I hope that is of some help to you.

  • 1

    Thanks

    Jeannette Kavanagh

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    I work with you to find your unique solutions to your problems. It's important that my clients gain some new strategies that they can apply … View Profile

    I agree with Paul - OCD is a spectrum and worrying about how your checking may affect your daughter may cause you more anxiety than it will help either of you. Dr McQueen's suggestion that you think about what would help you to be more confident and able to tolerate the anxiety you now feel if you don't check is also the kernel of your situation.  It's not about whether or not you fit the diagnosis of OCD it's more about being less harsh on yourself and about assessing how big the checking problem really is. The criterion of spending more than one hour per day on checking may help you to put this behaviour in perspective.

    As to whether or not you need help, it may be worthwhile getting a mental health care plan from your GP and spending some time learning more about yourself and what makes you anxious.  More importantly, the right sort of help will offer you strategies and skills to allow you a range of responses to things that are stressful in your life.  I hope that this helps.

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