“I’m so OCD...”

Posted on 08/02/18 02:04:pm "I'm so OCD"


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“I’m so OCD” has become a common phrase on social media describing normal cleaning and organizing behavior. Khloe Kardashian has posts called “KHLO-C-D” where she shares organization tips about her pantry and jewelry. This use of the OCD term can lead to misconceptions about what obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) really is.

In reality, OCD is a clinical mental health disorder that takes over people’s lives. Sufferers are plagued by unwanted thoughts and generate enough anxiety to prevent living a happy life.

Understanding OCD

Dr. Brad Riemann, chief clinical officer at Rogers Behavioral Health, explains that OCD has two parts: obsessions and compulsions. “Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that generate high levels of anxiety.”

Contamination is the obsession that most people think of when they hear OCD, but there are other types such as repeated doubt, need for exactness or symmetry, violent thoughts, unwanted sexual thoughts, and religious thoughts. Dr. Riemann notes that those with OCD don’t pose a threat to others. Those with harming obsessions have a fear of hurting the people who mean the most to them, such as a newborn child. Someone with OCD who has unacceptable sexual thoughts does not act on these thoughts, but is afraid of them.

“Compulsions are repetitive acts with the goal of either neutralizing or reducing the anxiety of their unwanted obsessional thought, or to prevent something bad from happening,” says Dr. Riemann. Compulsions that may respectively occur are washing, checking, ordering, or another thought or mental act. OCD goes beyond having an organized desk or double checking to make sure the stove is off.

OCD is debilitating and can cause people to not be able to go to school, work, or engage in social situations. Those with OCD may not turn in school assignments for fear of an error, or may wash their hands with scalding water hundreds of times a day to the point that their skin is blistering. “It’s a tormenting problem, it’s considered one of the top ten leading causes of disability in the organized world, including medical and psychiatric conditions,” adds Dr. Riemann. Hear firsthand from people who’ve experienced OCD by visiting our patient stories page.

OCD treatment

An estimated 3.5 million Americans are affected by OCD, according to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF). Although overcoming OCD is challenging, recovery is possible when treated properly. “Overall 75-85% of OCD patients respond to treatment. It is not unusual for patients to have 60% symptom reduction,” Dr. Riemann says.

The primary way to treat OCD is through a technique called exposure and ritual prevention (ERP), a component of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Medication management also has a role in recovery for many OCD patients. Dr. Riemann says, “For some, the most effective and efficient way to treat it is through a combination of medication and therapy, especially in severe and complex cases.”

The IOCDF also states that on average, most people who seek treatment have been showing OCD tendencies for 14 to 17 years before receiving treatment. Since 1998, Rogers has been collecting data on outcomes from more than 10,000 patients to help us understand the effectiveness of various treatments. 

Take a quiz to check your risk for OCD

Rogers’ clinicians have developed a 10-question confidential OCD quiz. Although not diagnostic, you can take the quiz to determine if you or a loved one demonstrates a tendency toward OCD. To take the quiz, visit rogersbh.org/ocdquiz.

OCD treatment is available at our Oconomowoc, Brown Deer, Appleton, Madison, West Allis, Chicago (Skokie), Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Tampa, and San Francisco East Bay locations. Within the next year, Rogers plans to also have OCD treatment available in Miami, San Diego, St. Paul, and Chicago (Hinsdale). We offer inpatient, residential, and intensive outpatient care programs for children and adults that vary by location.


Call 800-767-4411 or go to rogersbh.org to request a free screening.