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What Does It Feel Like To Have OCD?

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

Author: Kristy Cobillas, LPC

Unless you've experienced it, you have no idea. I cannot “just stop it.” The thought starts looming overhead. I sense that it’s there. I try to not let it land. It comes crashing in anyway. The torment could last for hours, days, even months.

Do I know that it's irrational? Of course I do! That changes nothing! My mind is constantly searching for safety. Looking for any little crack to make sure that I'm okay. 99.9% security is not enough. I must be absolutely sure. So I think and think and think. Sometimes I think myself completely out of rationality. My family doesn't get it. They're so frustrated with me. Nothing they say brings any comfort.

Please don't make jokes about it. It's not funny. No, you don't have OCD just because you like your house to be clean or maybe you are organized. OCD keeps me up late at night, researching, thinking, questioning and checking. I experience relief briefly, only to have the next “what if” swarm in, and the checking, anxiety, and mental exhaustion continue. A new thought lands. My stomach drops. I feel all the blood rush to my feet. My heart is racing and my head is spinning. I wish it was just about washing my hands. BUT IT’S NOT. It’s all sorts of things!


- What if I speed on the highway?

- Will God send me to hell for deliberately sinning?

- I better go back and re-drive that section of the road.

- Maybe I inadvertently hurt someone or hit someone on the road? I should go back and check.

- What if I had an affair and forgot…. I have no memory of doing this, but people forget things. I will never know.

- How can I possibly move forward?

- The number 13 is bad, and I just saw the number 13 on a licence plate, oh no, what is going to happen? I tap my foot 14 times to ‘undo’ the number 13.”

- Am I a child molester? I just had a thought about molesting a child! How do I prove to myself that I am not perverse?

A lot of times I try to run from it … this bully in my head. Other times, there's no escape and I do whatever necessary to gain a sense of control. Even if it makes zero sense.

Sometimes these thoughts loom in the background, and other times they come crashing in. They are so so so LOUD. I try to read, but the words are not resonating. They are just letters on a page. My head is in a fog. I cannot rest on the things that I know. I fear that my own memory is untrustworthy. Sure, stick a gun to my head and I can tell you what truth is, but there's always the “what if” in the background.

I just wish it would stop. Will I ever know for sure? If I can't, I'm not entirely sure I'm going to be able to move on. It feels as though my existence is nothing more than trying to grasp hold of some sense of security that will never be attained.

This is what it's like to have OCD.

If you find that these words resonate with you, I want to tell you that there is hope. Treatment for OCD is specialized and you need to find someone who is well-versed in dealing with this particular issue. Therapeutic interventions including: Exposure and Response Prevention, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can help quiet the bully of OCD.

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