Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

4 min read
Jul 20, 2023 8:14:07 AM

Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 

Hello, my name is Benjamin Urquhart. I have severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD for short. I’m hoping to outline at least a semblance of my experience to make it easier to understand OCD or, at the very least, reveal the thought process behind it. However, remember that everyone’s experiences are unique, and my experiences don’t reflect everyone else’s. 

To begin, OCD is described as a long-lasting disorder in which an individual has reoccurring and uncontrollable thoughts and/or behaviors that they feel an urge to repeat again and again (National Institute of Mental Health). It’s a chronic condition with people experiencing a higher risk for diagnosis if they have family members who have been diagnosed (National Institute of Mental Health). 

OCD feels, at least for me, like my body's nervous response system. You get the fight or flight feeling, adrenaline, the works when you're in danger. When I am put in a situation that challenges my OCD, it hijacks that response system. Depending on the severity of the situation, I'll get minuscule to severe symptoms such as anxiety, sweating, overheating, and rarely, an overwhelming feeling of peril, like the whole world feels like it's going to end even though my situation is not even remotely related. My OCD turns a mundane situation into a challenge to get through. 

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My OCD is primarily related to cleanliness and personal hygiene. However, it also gives me anxiety about all other sorts of situations (side note – I refer to my OCD as a separate entity of sorts as it makes it easier to understand and visualize). Situations like going out with friends, going to school, and talking to new people, always are challenges for me because my OCD tells me, “Something is going to go wrong.” I used to imagine the worst-case scenario, and then that was my new reality. Thankfully, things are different now. 

My current treatment plan includes medication for my OCD (Prozac) and practicing exposure response therapy, though I think it may have a few other names. Let me give you an example of how exposure-response therapy works. Take an OCD situation (a situation where your OCD is a factor and inhibits your usual functions), such as for me washing my hands. To simplify it, let’s say washing my hands takes 120 seconds. Next time I wash my hands, I’ll try and do it in 90 seconds. It will cause me some anxiety, but it will be a manageable amount that I can deal with and push through. 

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Then I work on making 90 seconds the new normal and then move on to 60 seconds. Exposure-response therapy is about putting yourself in the same situation again and again and working to improve it gradually. It’s like trying to get your best time for swimming laps or going for a run. And like those exercises, outside factors can affect your performance.   

You should always set yourself up for success, regardless of your struggles. Get plenty of sleep and try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Eat as best you can. Eating junk food once in a while is okay, but like most things, it's better in moderation. Exercise regularly when possible. Try to do things that ground you and make you happy, like spending time on hobbies or hanging out with friends and family. In short, try to put yourself in the best mental and physical state you can to give yourself a leg up on your challenges when you face them.   

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Different strategies work for different people. Sometimes steady, incremental progress works well for me, and other times I can make a big push that causes me a large amount of anxiety that’s much harder to deal with but is ultimately achievable. In my experience, medication and therapy work quite well. I encourage you to consider and explore these options if possible.   

Finally, OCD gets you by ingraining certain coping mechanisms in you. While they seem like they help, in reality, they make things worse. You can temporarily relieve anxiety by doing these coping methods, but it forces you to become dependent on them, and you get locked into a cycle of perpetual anxiety.   

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Say I wash my hands, and I get anxious while I am drying them because I think my hands aren't clean enough. I can wash them again and throw the towel in the washer because it is now perceived as "dirty," temporarily relieving my anxiety. Still, it's not a feasible long-term solution. I can't throw away every towel, and I shouldn't have to wash my hands every time I have anxiety. I've been in that situation, and let me tell you, having dried and cracked hands with over 100 cuts is not fun. On that point, it can be helpful to grab some moisturizer and place it by the sink if you also wash your hands a lot. Use some right after you wash your hands; it doesn't matter if you rinse your hands afterwards, it will still help.   

I hope this gave you a little insight into what it feels like to have OCD. And remember, everybody has off days - failure doesn’t mean everything is over. It means you should try again. You can beat things like OCD with hard work and perseverance. I wish everyone luck throughout their journeys. 

If you feel like getting started with tracking your mental health progress, the Zamplo App lets you keep track of symptoms and medications in a journal, join a community of support, and even add reminders for your routine activities – all in the same place. 

To get started with tracking your mental health, visit 


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