Have you ever heard anyone say “I’m so OCD.”? Many people have this notion of what OCD looks like – usually someone who cleans a lot and has to have everything a certain way. OCD, however, is a complex disorder, and it effects people differently.

There are three main components of OCD:

  • Obsessions – unwanted or intrusive thoughts that are often distressing. 
  • Emotions – intense anxiety caused by the obsessive thought.
  • Compulsions – the anxiety from the intrusive thought causes people to act a certain way in an attempt to find relief. 

Compulsive behaviors are not always obvious to others, but these symptoms create a vicious cycle for the person who has OCD. Symptoms can start off unnoticeable at first, but they snowball over time until the condition becomes unmanageable. Often, the compulsion doesnt logically relate to the obsessive or intrusive thought. 

Some people with OCD do have a ‘fear of contamination’ and will obsessively clean everything. Other times, people may have an intrusive thought of committing a violent act – it’s not something they would ever act out, but it causes them intense distress. They then do something to reduce the stress surrounding the thought. 

Dr. Ileana Berman is a Cognitive Science Researcher who focuses on the connections between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Schizophrenia, and has over three decades of professional experience in her field.