Do I Really Have OCD?

question markAs many of us know, doubt is the driving force behind obsessive-compulsive disorder. Compulsions are performed to make sure nothing terrible will happen. The problem, of course, is that certainty is unattainable, so when OCD asks the question “Are you 100% sure?” the answer is always “No.” With this answer comes the need for more compulsions and the vicious cycle of OCD begins.

If you have OCD, you know that this doubt can infiltrate all areas of your life. It makes you question your morals, your intentions, and even your relationships with those you love the most. It makes you question everything.

So it’s not really surprising that at some point along the way, many people with OCD will even question the validity of their diagnosis – the legitimacy of their disorder:

Do I really have OCD?

While this question might not seem like a big deal to those of us without OCD, I know it often becomes an obsession for people with the disorder. Someone’s thought process might go like this:

“Maybe I’m being deceitful. Maybe I’m pretending to have OCD so people won’t realize what a horrible person I really am. There’s a chance I really do want to harm someone, and I’m not just having those thoughts because I have OCD.”


“I bet I don’t even have OCD. It must be a misdiagnosis. I mean I don’t wash my hands compulsively or check the stove or feel the need to perform “typical” OCD compulsions. All my compulsions are in my head, so maybe it’s not even OCD. I’m fooling everybody and I’m nothing but a liar.”

These are just two examples of how this obsession might manifest itself. Compulsions also vary but might include researching OCD extensively to determine if you actually have the symptoms of the disorder, or seeking reassurance from others. You might question your therapist: “So I definitely have OCD, right?” or perhaps ask someone close to you if they think you really have the disorder. Unfortunately many well-meaning loved ones, and even some therapists, will not recognize these questions as compulsions, and will provide the reassurance the person so desperately craves. “Of course you have OCD.” With this reassurance comes a decrease in anxiety, but as we know, it is fleeting. The feelings of uncertainty return and you are back in the OCD loop.

So what’s the answer? How can people be certain they do have OCD so they can put this obsession to rest? Well, they can’t. What they need to do, what we all need to do, is learn to accept the uncertainty of life. If you’ve been diagnosed with OCD, then you should be getting proper treatment for the disorder, all the while accepting the fact that you will never be 100% sure that you have OCD. And really, it doesn’t matter. What matters is you are doing whatever you can to help yourself so that you can move forward and live the life you desire.


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9 Responses to Do I Really Have OCD?

  1. Daniel Walks says:

    The nurses weren’t sure i had OCD. I was on high risk watch because i was explaining my harm OCD, lol. I guess they had to be sure though.

    I find that OCD is not just a label, it is very real. Therefore I know 100% that i have OCD. But i know what you mean. NOthing is certain and basically to release the compulsion, which is what i’m trying to do this very second about a differen’t obsession, we have to embrace the uncertainty.

    • Daniel Walks says:

      Sorry i mean, yeah i totally get what you mean about reassurance.

      • Thanks for sharing Daniel, and I think you bring up an interesting point – that sometimes health care professionals have trouble recognizing OCD, and this adds fuel to the fire of uncertainty. I appreciate your comment!

  2. LaurenS says:

    I totally struggle with this. When I first received my “diagnosis,” I was researching it extensively and asking my therapist (and everyone else) if in fact I do actually have a disorder. My OCD is not one of the common types, so it is definitely hard for me to believe sometimes. I find myself asking “Is this type of OCD even real? How can I know? Maybe I am just using this diagnosis to justify my thoughts and actions when really I am just a messed up person.” Thanks for posting, it makes me feel like I’m not alone!

  3. anonymous says:

    Thanks for this post. My question is, what should you do if you aren’t diagnosed with OCD, but you really think you have it, but I thought we were meeting in the library at 10. Do you know where everyone is? are also so debilitated by the “Am I really being truthful to myself about my own experiences and do my experiences even fit the requirements for the disorder” question that you can’t seem to make yourself talk about it? I didn’t know that “bad-thought ocd” was even something that people could have – actually I didn’t even know what intrusive thoughts were – until recently even though I’ve been experiencing them for 6 years (I’m 19 now). When I found out that pure-o with bad thoughts existed I honestly felt like I was waking up from a nightmare, but I still haven’t talked to anyone about it because now I keep wondering about whether I even have enough intrusive thoughts/ocd symptoms to be diagnosed. It’s so hard to talk about those thoughts anyway, and the fear that someone will tell me that I just have subclinical symptoms after I’ve managed to finally tell someone that I think I have ocd just compounds the difficulty.
    My main problem is that, sometimes, especially now that I know what ocd is, I can have intrusive thoughts and not get super- freaked out by them (like, they are slightly annoying and frustrating rather than a cause for a complete invisible panic attack and a bunch of anxious thinking and days of trying to forget about the thought). Also, the fact that sometimes I just feel super sad about the bad thoughts, instead of super anxious, is another thing that makes me wonder whether I really have ocd – I say to myself “I am supposed to feel super-anxious about these thoughts, and the fact that I just feel really sad in response to having one means I can’t have ocd – I’m either just wierd or probably a person who’s sad that she’s slightly psycopathic or a depressed secretly horrible person.” (Which is ridiculous, becuse I’m not psycopathic, but it’s the way I feel.) These two things make me wonder if I really have ocd anymore – at least at a clinical level. I really feel like my life is still affected by the possibly-ocd symptoms, and that ocd could explain my concentration and taking-way-too-long-to-do-stuff problems, but since I’ve been experiencing those problems since, like, forever ago, I’ve learned to cope with them pretty well, and I don’t know if it would even be evident to others the extent to which I have those problems (or the extent to which I feel I have them). I’m afraid to even tell someone that I might have ocd for fear that they will, if they don’t think I’m dangerous because of my intrusive harm thoughts, be like, “What are you even talking about? You are fine, you are just exaggerating problems that everyone has.” (And they probably actually will think I’m dangerous due to the intrusive thoughts). And then I will probably be like “yeah, you’re right – I am just exaggerating normal problems,” due to not being able to convince myself that I actually have ocd. Even though I am pretty sure it is not normal to have spent about the past 1/3 of your life multi-tasking between living your life and trying to convince yourself that you weren’t secretly psycopathic, or resisting seeing people die horrible deaths anytime anything remotely dangerous was present – e.g. cars, water, a train, darkness, a cliff, etc.
    Anyway, I think I may be obssessing about the problem of telling someone that I think I have ocd because I have literally been thinking about it for like 2 weeks non-stop, and it’s making me really anxious and affecting my ability to keep up with stuff I have to do. So, if anyone has any advice, I would appreciate it.

    • Hi, Thank you for sharing. You obviously have a lot of questions and concerns about your health and how you are feeling, so my advice would be to talk with your health-care provider and/or OCD specialist to sort things out. I wish you all the best as you move forward!

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