1. OCD is often characterized by irrationality. However, for many people, it’s actually the product of being too rational.
The big reason why people with obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors can’t get past them is because they are deep thinkers. They are associating a cause-and-effect that, while improbable, isn’t impossible. It’s not out of the question for a headache to be cancer, or a bad review to mean being let go from a job. As soon as they can see a reasonable alternative – evidence that the worst case scenario isn’t real – it’s much easier to let go of the thought. Until then, it’s a matter of surviving what’s only happening in their minds.
2. It’s not always about repetitive actions, counting steps, or making sure things are super clean – the classic signs of OCD. It’s more often about not being able to let go of a thought or fear, and then taking extreme measures to resolve the “problem.”
High-functioning OCD isn’t always the person who has to check the door 7 times exactly before they leave (though this is, of course, a symptom of the disorder). It’s the person who cannot get over a fear, or has an obsessive, recurring idea, and ends up taking impulsive action to “fix” it. It’s the person who cannot simply “get over” their former love, or an idea about themselves that they think is true. Sometimes, this can be taken to such an extreme that it derails a person’s life.
3. Simply “letting things go” is next to impossible. Mental self-control is the biggest challenge.
The whole problem is that OCD makes you incapable of controlling your attention. While nobody has power over what thoughts pop up in their heads, they usually do have autonomy over whether or not they focus on them. This is not the case with OCD. It is like being on an automatic, continual loop that you must take action against to relieve yourself.
4. OCD often masks as “just anxiety.”
On the surface it can just seem like someone who gets too worried or worked up for no reason, especially when they aren’t showing any of the stereotypical ticks of the disease.
5. Obsessive thoughts are often a response to confusing discomfort for danger.
This is the premise of all anxiety, but particularly with OCD. The need to fixate on a scary or disturbing idea often comes from the notion that it’s, in some way, real. Thinking it through again and again is a sort of defense mechanism, but it carries on without end because it is impossible to find a solution to a danger that is not real – but feels very real.
6. Very successful, prolific and creative people often have high-functioning OCD.
Accomplishing (anything, really) requires a ton of focus for an extensive period of time. It also requires a deep and insatiable interest in the thing, and an ability to, truly, become obsessed with it to the point that you work so hard and success becomes that much more probable. Successful people almost use the OCD “brain loop” to their advantage: they get themselves stuck on an idea that’s productive, and then use behaviors that support the development of that idea.
7. High-functioning is often worse than low-functioning.
This is because it can go on for years, and nothing will be done about it. When it isn’t obvious, like a minor addiction, it becomes a behavior, or “part of your personality.” It’s not, it’s a disorder. When a problem gets really bad really quickly, you’re able to address it and take action. Otherwise, you run the risk of living your whole life without it ever being resolved.