What Does it Mean to be OCD Sensitive?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder where people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel compelled to do something repetitively (compulsions).
What many people don’t realize, however, is that the thoughts that become obsessions in those with OCD are typically no different from the thoughts most of us experience.
Concern as to whether we left the stove on, or remembered to lock the door, or if we’ve sufficiently washed our hands to prevent illness aren’t unusual. But the reaction to these thoughts, the compulsions, are the real difference. The person with OCD is much more sensitive to the pressures of these concerns—they cannot convince themselves to move on without first going back, sometimes repeatedly, to reassure themselves.
Research has shed very little light on the cause of OCD. There are parallels between people who are highly sensitive and those who suffer with OCD. Which way does the relationship flow? Does higher sensitivity lead to OCD? Or does OCD result in higher sensitivity? We don’t know the answer.
Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?
Do any of the following five characteristics ring true for you?
1. You’re very emotional
You experience emotions intensely, react strongly to them, and cry easily.
2. You’re very compassionate and generous
You are a natural caretaker, desiring to comfort and help to those who suffer.
3. You’re sensitive to criticism
Criticism doesn’t feel constructive so much as it feels personal and painful.
4. You’re sensitive to external stimuli
Your senses are aware of things around you others seem oblivious to—the buzz of fluorescent lights above your head, the sound of someone else chewing, the strong sent of someone’s perfume, and etc.
5. You overthink and worry
You notice every detail and overthink what should be simple decisions.
If you are a highly sensitive person, and if at any time you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious because of your sensitivity, it’s important that you seek the guidance of a therapist who can help you manage your emotions.
Is it sensitivity? Or is it OCD?
Here is a short list of questions to ask consider:
- Do you ever experience repetitive thoughts that cause you anxiety?
- Do you ever fear germs or engage in excessive cleaning?
- Do you experience the need to constantly check on something or arrange things?
- Do you experience intrusive thoughts that are aggressive or about taboo topics?
- Do you struggle to control obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors?
- Do you engage in rituals that provide temporary relief to your anxiety, such as counting, checking, or cleaning?
- Do you spend at least one hour a day thinking obsessive thoughts or performing these ritual behaviors?
- Are work life, home life, or relationships affected by your obsessive thinking or ritual behaviors?
With the right help and resources, you can enjoy a life free of these obsessive fears and compulsive responses.