Have a Look at the picture above – does it bother you? Some might say that you have OCD- or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, simply because you notice the small little details in everything, and any minor breaks or ‘mistakes’ in patterns annoys you.
However, there is much more to OCD than we think.
OCD is defined as an anxiety disorder that affects a person’s daily life. Individuals with OCD are compelled to perform certain tasks ritually, which they have little control over stopping. Common activities associated with the disorder are fastidious attention to details (a bit like checking the picture above!), checking that a door is locked several times, extreme cleanliness, and counting things. Although these may seem like rational behaviours, they are in fact irrational because of the time taken to complete these rituals. An individual with OCD may spend hours of their day ensuring that every single window and door in their house is locked, this then becomes a routine – where if not completed – they become extremely anxious.
On the other hand, a perfectionist will often go out of their way and make it obvious that they require organisation and orderliness in their lives. For example, a perfectionist student may submit a piece of homework and check again just before the deadline to make sure the work has been sent. However, someone with OCD may submit the work several times and check periodically to ensure the file hasn’t somehow disappeared. Perhaps a more extreme example is when someone with OCD washes their hands over 5 times in a row just to feel clean, and even washing their hands to the point where they bleed. Despite this example of compulsive behaviour being quite extreme, it is important to understand that this is actually the norm for most people suffering from OCD, and actions like this have detrimental effects on their lives. The International OCD Foundation describes OCD as an anxiety disorder in which people get stuck in a cycle of unwanted thoughts and “behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.”
Therefore, OCD is a very serious disorder and not one to simply throw around and describe people who are very particular about certain tasks they undertake. Although the differences are subtle, it is important to understand that OCD is an extreme form of perfectionism, and claiming to have ‘OCD’ can be insensitive to a person who actually suffers the disorder. So: Don’t use OCD as an adjective- it’s not a word that describes someone who is a bit bothered about small details – it is a medical disorder, and should be treated as one. Perfectionism is a controlled concept, OCD is a controlling disorder.
Note: It’s OCD Awareness Week this week, Oct 7th-13th 2018, so if you want any information about OCD, visit:
Note 2: For other Perfectionists like me, here’s the picture of the tiling without the flaw:
Photo Credits due to: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/ask-dr-rob-about-ocd