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How OCD are you? Take this quiz to find out!

September 14, 2014

Grab a pen and keep track of your points. Do you agree or disagree that these totally OCD characteristics sound just like you?

1. Something feels wrong, in a way you don’t quite know how to put into words. In the back of your mind is a nagging impulse saying wrong wrong wrong wrong quick hurry danger do something.

Agree? 100 points! Disagree? 0 points.

2. In the front of your mind, things are a lot worse.
In the front of your mind are images and thoughts you can’t escape from. Maybe you are picturing the people you love being horribly maimed or dying grisly deaths. Maybe you are picturing a disgusting person doing unspeakable things to you. Maybe you are picturing yourself doing unspeakable things to someone else. Maybe you visualize awful disease-laden microbes crawling into your body’s every pore and orifice. You try to push and fight and squash these images, but they pop right back up again like a horror film.

Agree? 200 points!! Disagree? 0 points.

3. The only temporary relief you can get from these thoughts is to compulsively act out repetitive gestures or rituals until that panicky wrong wrong wrong impulse feels satisfied and goes quiet. You place an object in a certain way, and then re-do it and re-do it until it feels exactly right. You repeat numbers or words in an exact pattern in your head, and if you make one mistake you go right back to the start, as many times as it takes until you get it perfect. You repeatedly twitch with your entire body to dislodge and shake out the nightmare visions.

Agree? 500 points!!! Disagree? 0 points.

4. The whole time this is happening, you are perfectly aware of how bizarre it is, and how utterly insane you look. You know there is no logical reason for it; you know that it isn’t actually possible to save your family from death by opening and closing and opening and closing and opening and closing the front door until your brain is satisfied that you’ve done it right. You feel intense shame, humiliation and self-loathing. But you can’t stop.

Agree? 1000 points!!!! Disagree? 0 points.


This might not be the lighthearted quiz you were expecting. But this is what OCD feels like. It is not a funny quirk or a joke. It is hell.

* * *

I wrote the above, partly a description of what my life was like from adolescence to about my mid-twenties, as an introduction for my friend to use in her information sessions about the nature of OCD, and why it’s inappropriate for people to use the term flippantly.

In general, I’m not too bothered about the way that language shifts and words are borrowed for other purposes. And I don’t feel especially offended on a personal level when someone uses “OCD” to describe commonplace fussy, nit-picking or repetitious behaviour. But I do wish that people would educate themselves about what it really is, and realize that it can be a debilitating condition that causes extreme psychological distress, to the point that in some cases it can lead to suicide. People who live with this disorder every day might have a bit of difficulty seeing the humour in it.

  1. dcasseres permalink
    September 14, 2014 9:24 pm

    You say you suffered from OCD until some time in your twenties. What happened then? I would love to know

    • September 15, 2014 9:00 am

      Well, I actually avoid saying explicitly that I have (or had) OCD, for a couple of reasons – first, I was never formally diagnosed, and second, I don’t think my case is typical in that I seem to have been able to overcome the worst of it on my own. I don’t want to misrepresent what the condition is like for other people, and make it seem like it’s something you can “just get over” (because that’s really not the case for most sufferers), so I hesitate somewhat to talk about that part of my experience.

      I certainly did experience most of what I describe above, every day for many years. I also suffered (and still suffer but to a much lesser degree now) from dermatillomania, a related condition. Maybe one day I will feel brave enough to blog about that too, but not today.

      As for the rest, it’s not so much what happened in my mid-twenties, as how I decided to cope. As I said, I knew on an intellectual level that there was no connection with reality – I knew that acting out my compulsions wouldn’t have any actual effect on real events. And I was becoming completely overwhelmed and full of despair about how it was starting to take over my life. So one day I decided that the next time I felt that nagging panicky impulse and started envisioning horrible things happening, I would sit quietly and let myself experience them without responding to it. And that’s what I did. And I kept doing it, every time they came back. And eventually they (mostly) went away. I still have the odd tic, and I still have a lot of intrusive thoughts and images, but I don’t feel the compulsive impulse to act out rituals anymore.

  2. greenspace01 permalink
    September 15, 2014 3:45 pm

    Thank you for this post. Although I don’t have OCD, I have other anxiety disorders, and have friends with OCD, and it does bug me when people use the term to mean fussy, nit-picking, or very neat.

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