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10 Signs You May Have OCD and Could Use Online Therapy

Katherine Cullen
Upset woman resting her forehead on her hands
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness characterized by repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) that can impair a person’s physical and emotional health as well as their ability to engage in relationships, work, leisure, and other important activities.

The need for accessible online therapy has risen dramatically, with around 2.3% of all adults in the United States living with OCD and up to 3% of children displaying OCD symptoms at any given time. OCD can be an exhausting condition and many experience shame over their symptoms.

To help you better understand the patterns, here’s a closer look at the signs of OCD—and what to do if you experience any of them.

» Considering treatment? You could get online therapy covered by insurance.

1. You Have Disturbing and Recurrent Thoughts

Those with OCD can experience repetitive, intrusive, and persistent thoughts. These are usually of a disturbing nature—think: becoming contaminated or infected, losing control of your bodily functions and embarrassing yourself, or anticipating an inescapable eruption of violence or mayhem.

Unrelenting urges and images can also nag at your mind. Stabbing yourself or someone else, engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior, driving your car off the road, or throwing a child off of a ledge are some troubling examples. All are examples of obsessions, which are seemingly uncontrollable, repetitive thoughts that provoke anxiety.

2. You Attempt to Suppress Unwanted Thoughts

Experiencing obsessions may lead you to engage in a variety of behaviors to suppress them, like avoiding situations, people, places, and content that trigger intrusive and unwanted thoughts. This can keep you constantly active, or make you overbook your calendar so you don't have time to think.

» Learn more about how thinking traps affect your mental health.

3. You Have Repetitive Behaviors (Compulsions)

Many people with OCD engage in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (called compulsions) to feel a sense of control over obsessive thoughts. Compulsions take many forms: you may religiously wash your hands after touching things, engage in repeated checking (e.g., that a door is locked, that the stove is off), repeat words, or perform a rigid exercise routine over and over again.

Some of your compulsions may seem like hallmarks of passion or commitment. But unlike most healthy behaviors, most compulsions lack flexibility and are done unwillingly. You're unable to adapt them to different circumstances and experience displeasure.

4. You Follow Rigid Rules

Inflexible rules about how compulsive behaviors should be performed (or what the consequences may be if they’re not performed) can indicate OCD.

Your rules may entail the number of times a ritual must be performed or the sequence of actions constituting those rituals. Any deviation then compels you to restart the ritual. You may experience great distress since this constrains you from feeling at peace in your own skin or environment.

» Learn more about the cost of online therapy.

5. You Lose Time

Ceaselessly trying to suppress unwanted thoughts or perform compulsive behaviors can drain you of the time and energy that other life activities require.

Your obsessions, rules, and rituals may leave little room for you to complete work, spend time with friends and family, or attend to routine obligations.

6. You Have an Inflated Sense of Responsibility

People with OCD also tend to overestimate how much influence they have in various outcomes.

This isn’t the same as an overinflated sense of self-importance. Rather, the inflated sense of responsibility you experience reflects a belief that your actions will have dire, far-reaching, and often irreversible negative consequences.

» Take off some of the pressure by spotting and accepting situations you can't change.

7. You Are a Perfectionist

You may hold yourself (and others) to extremely high standards, and when combined with other symptoms on this list, this characteristic may be a sign of OCD.

Many people with OCD struggle with a belief that nothing short of flawlessness is an acceptable outcome. This perfectionism can stem from a deep terror of incurring adverse consequences for subpar behavior, a need to feel in control, or a strong desire to avoid feelings of inadequacy.

8. You Overestimate Threats

Individuals with OCD tend to perceive the world, their bodies, other people, and/or the future as more threatening than those who don’t have OCD.

Exaggerated threat perception may stem from your heightened perception of vulnerability and is linked to over-activation of the brain known to regulate fear responses (the amygdala).

» Looking for ways to support a child with OCD? Try online counseling for teens.

9. You Suffer From High Anxiety and Distress

Not surprisingly, obsessions and compulsions cause significant distress for OCD sufferers.

Anxiety abounds over the possibility of unwanted thoughts recurring. So do fears that you'll act on your urges or that something will go horribly wrong if your compulsions aren’t carried out.

10. You Are Intolerant of Uncertainty

Many people with OCD struggle to sit with uncertainty. To compensate, they may engage in additional compulsions to relieve the discomfort of not knowing what to expect.

You may obsessively check the weather, traffic, or public transportation schedules, meticulously plan your days such that very little free time is left on your calendars, or pore over as much information as you can about a particular topic.

This is driven by a fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable.

» Hesitant about taking the first step? We've debunked these 10 harmful myths about therapy.

When to Get Help

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can consume lives with repetitive behaviors and attempts to stifle unwanted, recurring thoughts. If you or someone you know is struggling to maintain friendships or romantic relationships, hold down a job, or maintain physical health because of obsessions or compulsions, you should seek a professional for help.

If this is the case, it’s best to reach out for help. Online OCD therapy is a convenient and efficient way to get treatment. Persons of faith may feel more comfortable with Faithful Counseling while teens may be more inclined towards Teen Counseling.

Think You or Someone You Know Has OCD?

Whether you or someone you care about is struggling with symptoms of anxiety disorders, seeking the best online therapy services for anxiety, or worried your anxiety may stem from an OCD diagnosis, don’t wait to reach out for help. The sooner you address and learn to cope with your symptoms, the better your quality of life.

Several treatments can reduce OCD symptoms and help people lead meaningful, purpose-driven lives that aren’t eclipsed by obsessions or compulsions. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and various pharmacotherapies (especially clomipramine and a drug class called serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs) are several research-backed approaches.

» Make the most of your online therapy sessions with these science-based tips.

Katherine Cullen
Katherine Cullen is a psychotherapist in New York City and co-author of The Truth About Exercise Addiction: Understanding the Dark Side of Thinspiration. Her work has been published by numerous outlets, including Psychology Today, Cosmopolitan, and Self.

The author of this article has been paid by Natural Intelligence to write this article. Neither the author nor Natural Intelligence provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or your local emergency number immediately.