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As told by Tam: OCD is both helpful and a hindrance

We have heard the term OCD so many times in our lives. Oh she has OCD because all her stuff is organized and she puts it right back in the same spot she took it from. An article from Help Guide explains that people with OCD fall into one or more of these categories: washers, checkers, doubters and sinners, counters and arrangers, and hoarders.

The article also offers these identifiers for each of the categories: 


Washers are afraid of contamination. They usually have cleaning or hand-washing compulsions.

Checkers repeatedly check things (oven turned off, door locked, etc.) that they associate with harm or danger.

Doubters and sinners are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen, or they will be punished.

Counters and arrangers are obsessed with order and symmetry. They may have superstitions about certain numbers, colors, or arrangements.

Hoarders fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. They compulsively hoard things that they don’t need or use.

I have OCD in the forms of counter, arranger and checker. I feel as if doing things in repetition really gets in the way of me living my life. I have to keep the volume level on the TV in increments of five, or when I tap something, like a pen on a table, I have to do it in four times.  Personally I hate that I have to do certain things in a certain way or that if I put something away in my wallet I have to check over and over again if what I put away is in there. OCD has been a big part of my life and I decided it was time to start handling it. I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

Compulsive behaviors cause individuals anxiety and become demanding and time-consuming.

OCD correlates with many other diseases such as ADHD, tic disorders or compulsive buying. OCD can also be misconstrued in children as having the same symptoms of ADD or Tourette’s syndrome. It is important to see a doctor if you think you have OCD because it can be disguised as one of the above illnesses.

Below are some helpful tips from myself and the Help Guide on how to manage OCD and related tendencies. 


The first and most important thing I could say about OCD is that if you believe that you cannot control it on your own or want more in-depth information, please contact a medical professional.

One tip is to try to “Refocus your attention when you’re experiencing OCD thoughts and urges, try shifting your attention to something else. The important thing is to do something you enjoy for at least 15 minutes, in order to delay your response to the obsessive thought or compulsion. At the end of the delaying period, reassess the urge. In many cases, the urge will no longer be quite as intense. Try delaying for a longer period. The longer you can delay the urge, the more it will likely change.”

This will help refocus your obsession to something else and in the end help you become more efficient at handling your OCD.

Another tip revolves around the idea of training yourself to refrain from the compulsion. An example from the Help Guide says, “if you are a compulsive hand washer, you might be asked to touch the door handle in a public restroom and then be prevented from washing. As you sit with the anxiety, the urge to wash your hands will gradually begin to go away on its own. In this way, you learn that you don’t need the ritual to get rid of your anxiety — that you have some control over your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.”

On the other hand, OCD can be a very helpful thing to have. I like that I have to keep my room and everything else organized, and when I take something out to use I put it right back in the same spot. I have the compulsion to put things back right away or it will bother me until I do.

 OCD helps and hinders me in life, but it’s part of my personality. I may have to do things in repetition, check to make sure things are put away in the right spot, and keep the TV volume at a certain level but that is who I am.

Don’t let your OCD control you, just enjoy life with the little quirks you have and surround yourself with people who will love you that way.

Collegian Columnist Tamra Smalewitz can be reached at or on Twitter @tamrasmalewitz.

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  • J

    Janet SingerSep 27, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    I think this article, unfortunately, only adds to the misconception of this already misunderstood disorder. OCD is not the same as having “little quirks,” it is a potentially devastating and often tormenting disorder. I am an advocate for OCD awareness and the author of Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery which recounts my son’s amazing recovery from OCD so severe he could not even eat. I hear from thousands of people through my blog (ocdtalk) and I have never heard anyone who has OCD say, as you have, “OCD can be a very helpful thing to have.” I recently wrote a post differentiating between OCD and quirks: We need to let people know that OCD, by definition, is not a good thing!

  • S

    Steven J Hanley PhDSep 26, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    This is a nice succinct review here. Part of the difficulty with many obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors is that they CAN be adaptive in many circumstances. It is a matter of degree as you point out. Thanks!