1. You obsess over things that don’t even register in other people’s heads.
OCD doesn’t necessarily mean that you walk into a room and flip a light switch on and off multiple times. The “obsessive” part is what surfaces most often. You obsess over bad news. Some tiny part of an anecdote that comes up in conversation (that everyone else took as a passing detail) will stay with you for days after you hear it. Things you see on the news will keep you up long after the person lying beside you has drifted off to sleep. Your mind is constantly going over details that put you on edge, and you are often trying to will yourself to press pause on the relentless replays.
2. You are incredibly particular.
And when people meet you, they assume you’re a huge perfectionist. You are incredibly aware of symmetry, alignment, and are generally very diligent about keeping things in a specific place. You are the type of person who pays attention to minute details that other people don’t notice.
3. When you’re around people, they often don’t realize that you’re trying incredibly hard to keep your mental illness out of the picture.
OCD is something that can be kept under wraps in that you can be flooded with obsessive panic while still sitting across from your friends, smiling and nodding at the story they’re telling. Many people with OCD have small habits that only kick in when they’re reacting to something that makes them feel anxious and panicked. While sitting across from you, they could be pulling at their hair, wringing their hands or even counting down from 10 just to keep themselves calm. And you’d never notice.
4. You gravitate toward tasks that fully consume you. It’s intentional.
When you are trying to stay in control of your wandering mind, you seek out work or other activities that take up every ounce of thought you have. You want to be fully immersed in an activity because that ensures that your mind won’t wander and obsess over your most irrational fears.
5. You are overly practical, even when talking about your biggest fears.
At most points during the day, when you’re removed from trigger situations, you are able to discern your OCD-like behaviors and can even explain to yourself that what you’re obsessing over is irrational. You crave practicality because it is concrete. When you can pinpoint the irrationality in your obsessive thoughts, it makes you feel more in control.
6. You have an aversion to clutter, and are very distracted by your surroundings.
Depending on what sets off your compulsive nature, you might not be able to work in a messy environment, or you might get extremely stressed standing in crowds. For some, sensory overload can push people into fits of anxiety — loud or sharp noises can also be what sets you off. What your friends don’t realize is that whatever is making you “seem irritable” is actually causing you severe stress. You often find yourself in situations where you need to make an excuse to leave or make a quick exit because it’s too complicated to explain that something triggered your OCD and that you needed to remove yourself before your reaction elevated.
7. Just like physical clutter can bother you, digital, emotional or mental clutter can bother you, too.
Having ten tabs open on one browser drives you crazy, as does seeing an incredibly messy desktop. Similarly, if you have too many things bouncing around in your head it will completely overwhelm you, and you’ll need to write down some of the thoughts just to give yourself some relief. Even emotional clutter can flare up your OCD because it’s providing yet another concern for you to obsess over.
8. You constantly worry about worst-case, irrational scenarios that everyone else says “would never happen to you.”
Your obsessiveness is at your worst because you can realize that you’re thinking irrationally, but you cannot stop yourself. You often visualize bad things happening, and then need a visual distraction just to push the mental images out of your head.
9. You need to write all of your to dos — work to dos and life to dos — down in a notebook.
When you have OCD, you keep your fears in the forefront of your mind when you’re going through an obsessive period. This leaves you worried that everything else that should be on your mind will slip through the cracks. In short, OCD can make you forgetful because you can’t focus on your jarring obsessions and your real life all at the same time. You are constantly writing down things to do, texting yourself reminders, and leaving notes for yourself just to make sure you’re covered.