OCD? OR JUST PERFECTIONISM?
Updated: Jan 30, 2021
By Zainab Husain
Remember calling that friend of yours who likes to wash their hands, or keep their rooms cleaned, ‘OCD’? Do you, yourself, like keeping things perfect, say, for example, arranging your clothes by colour? Do you worry and double-check if you have locked your doors? Do you double-check whether you’ve switched off the lights before leaving? One might say these behaviours are irrational. But, most of these tasks are perfectly rational and nothing to worry about.
We all strive for perfectionism. It’s a basic human trait. We’ve been taught & rewarded for good and perfect work since we were kids. We all have a tendency towards keeping everything perfect. But that’s not OCD, that’s just perfectionism. It becomes OCD when you do not have control over yourself. It is when you are obsessed with, and find a compulsion to perform these rituals. It becomes a part of your daily routine. You try to fight it. You try your level best to oppose the tendencies. But, often, you fail to. That’s when it’s OCD. Not when you ‘like’ to keep your room clean. Calling one’s perfectionist tendencies OCD can be insensitive to the one’s battling OCD every day, to the ones trying to fight themselves and their inner compulsions.
DSM-5 defines OCD as ‘presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both’. The obsessions are recurrent and persistent. The individual often tries to resist these urges and suppress them or try to neutralize them with some thought and action. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession. These acts are often performed with the aim of preventing or reducing stress or preventing a dreaded situation. These obsessions and compulsions are often time-consuming or cause significant distress or impairment in one’s social and occupational life.
“The difference between OCD and perfectionism lies in the level of rationale applied to the activity or situation.” More often than not, one can control their perfectionism. Perfectionism is when one likes to control how they like or want certain things, whereas OCD controls the person affected by it. A perfectionist often likes and goes out of their way to make it obvious that they require hygiene and organization, whereas one with OCD often tries to hide these tendencies and fights them within themselves. It becomes a part of and disrupts one’s routine. When one has to re-check whether they switched off their stove every time, andwhen they have to keep on washing their hands, despite knowing it’s clean, despite knowing doing this does not help them. OCD is an anxiety disorder that affects a person’s daily life. Individuals with OCD are compelled to perform these tasks ritually. Perfectionism is striving for flawlessness; it’s OCD when it causes chaos in one’s life.
OCD isn’t an adjective, it’s not a term you can use to mock your friend. OCD is a medical disorder and should be treated likeone. But the plus side of it being an actual disorder is that it can be treated. But to be treated, one needs to be diagnosed. Do not self-diagnose. Self-diagnosing is the worst thing you can do to yourself. Consult your psychiatrist if you think you might have OCD. We understand how daunting it can be to seek formal help. But do not hesitate. Get a diagnosis and seek treatment. You’re not alone, there are lots of people out there struggling with the same. Seek help and help others! It’s okay!