“Just Right” OCD

by jackthumm freedigitalphotos.net

by jackthumm freedigitalphotos.net


If you or a loved one has obsessive-compulsive disorder, you know that OCD typically attacks what matters the most to you – your values.

Is a loving relationship the most important thing in your life? OCD will make you question it. Working toward the career of your dreams? OCD might tell you it’s not for you or there’s no way you’ll be successful. Wouldn’t hurt a fly? OCD will try to convince you you’re a danger to others. In my son Dan’s case, OCD stole his joy, his art, and everything else he held dear.

And just when you think you’ve beaten OCD in one area, it shows up in another. I’ve often heard people compare obsessive-compulsive disorder to that whack-a-mole game found in arcades. You whack one mole only to be have another one pop right up. It never ends.

While most people with OCD might be nodding their heads now in understanding, not everyone’s OCD works this way. Those who deal with “just right OCD” experience thoughts and feelings that something is “just not right,” or is incomplete. While on the surface it might look similar to other forms of OCD, its symptoms are more likely to be driven by a vague discomfort or tension rather than the attack on values and ensuing anxiety as described above.

Let’s take the classic example of someone with OCD who washes his or her hands compulsively. In many cases, this compulsion stems from fear of contamination. Perhaps the person with OCD thinks he will spread germs to others or make himself sick if he doesn’t wash, wash, wash. This fear of illness or of causing harm to loved ones is the impetus for the hand-washing compulsion.

Those with “just right OCD” might present with the same hand-washing compulsion, but their obsessions are not related to contamination. Because they are grappling with strong feelings of incompleteness, people with this type of OCD feel compelled to wash their hands until this sense of incompleteness resolves and  everything feels “just right.”

It is interesting to note that those who deal with “just right OCD” are more likely than others with OCD to have a co-morbid condition such as tic disorder. In fact, it can often be difficult to differentiate between “just right OCD” and tics, so a good therapist is a must in getting a correct diagnosis and treatment. Also, not surprisingly, perfectionism and general inflexibility are also often associated with this type of OCD. For more info about “just right OCD” I recommend checking out this IOCDF fact sheet.

So how is “just right OCD” treated? You guessed it. The same way as all types of OCD – with exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. While there are many subtypes of OCD, and the disorder can morph from one type to another (remember our whack-a-mole analogy), the bottom line is OCD is OCD. All  kinds of OCD are fueled by doubt and uncertainty, and all OCD sufferers get caught up in the vicious cycle of obsessions and compulsions. But the good news is that, with the help of a good OCD therapist, all types of OCD are also treatable.



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10 Responses to “Just Right” OCD

  1. grannyK says:

    That is me with doing things like opening and closing any type of airtight container, folding clothes, turning things off and on (such as a radio or light), etc. I still fold and unfold clothes a lot and I put lids on and take lids off until it feels right. And, that is the ONLY way I’ve ever been able to tell people I know when to stop. It has to feel okay. Thank you for your posts. When I read them, I don’t feel so alone or odd.

    • Thanks for sharing grannyK. You are SO “not alone or odd!” As a matter of fact, I have come to the conclusion that every human being behaves in some way that at some point make them feel as if there must be something wrong with them. That’s one of the reasons why I think it is so important to share!

  2. Hi Janet, Thanks for your post. I identified with every word. Over the past few months I’ve eradicated 3 of my OCDs (one of them just gradually disappeared as a result of the ERP work I’d done on the other two), but I became aware I’m developing new ones to take their place. I feel I must (as I am on a self-directed journey to recovery) be super-strong in order to nip them in the bud before they take a hold – and this week I’m not feeling strong enough; as if I’m kidding myself that I will ever escape the quicksand that is OCD. This is where the help of a therapist I guess is essential… All the best, Gemma

    • Thanks for sharing, Gemma. As I’ve told you before I am so impressed with all you have accomplished on your own, and with your determination, I wholeheartedly believe you will beat OCD. That being said, the more support you (or any of us) have, the better. Have you not been able to find a good therapist, or are there reasons why you prefer to tackle OCD on your own? Whatever route you take, I’m in your cheering section!

      • Hi Janet, I haven’t been able to find a good therapist and am mistrustful being as I’ve been let down a lot in the past: Asking for help has made me feel even more isolated – hence my determination to go it alone with the ‘OCD Workbook’. The support of those who understand is helping, though. Your belief in me means a lot, so thank you. All the best, Gemma

      • I’m so sorry you’ve had negative experiences with therapy Gemma. Unfortunately that story is all too common. It’s too bad because there are good therapists out there but I understand how you feel. Good luck as you keep fighting……..you can do this :).

  3. Thanks for this post! I have enjoyed reading it. OCD tends to morph into different things for me too. When we resist in one area, it moves onto the next. It gets so upset when we don’t give into it so it tries to trick us in another area.

  4. nanankin says:

    Since treatment is more difficult for “just right” OCD given the more generalized symptoms, how is treament effective?

    • I don’t know that this type of OCD is more difficult to treat than others. For all types of OCD, you are asked to do the opposite of what OCD tells you and to refrain from compulsions. You are basically retraining your brain and learning to live with uncertainty as well. I hope this helps, but I’m not a therapist so I’d suggest finding an OCD specialist. Good luck!

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