We all wish to be perfect and do our work well. To this aim, we utilise some skills that enable us to channelize our behaviours so that we don’t spend too much time on doing routine chores – e.g. keeping the keys, wallet, shoes etc in the same place everyday, trying to leave work the same time each day to beat the traffic and so on. These things we learn as a result of our experiences and sometimes the difficulties we face. Persons who we call perfectionists invariably have a reasonably good “error checking” system in place and thus, are able to use the above mentioned skills to their benefit. The easiest example to consider would be the character Wasabi from the movie Big Hero 6 who would quote – “a place for everything and everything in its place”.
But, just imagine a scenario where the above skills go haywire and then we have people focusing on the trivial details with an inability to stop the process of error checking. This is not based on any prior learning or a misinterpretation of prior learning taken to absurd levels. Then we have people who are unable to control their impulse to make sure that things (even trivial ones) are placed “exactly right”, doing things over and over (whether it be checking, counting, cleaning or whatever) to “just to be sure”, having illogical/ magical beliefs and so on. This would intrude on their daily functioning and would impair their ability to do the most basic things with any efficiency. This would be OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Obsessions could be anything – a thought, an image, an impulse to do something.
One common feature of obsessions include the fact that at some level, the person having them identifies them as illogical, unnecessary, excessive, intrusive and distressing.
Compulsions are any behaviour(s) aimed at reducing the anxiety that is created by the obsessions. They could be things like doing things a particular way, or doing it repeatedly, or a particular number of times.
Its important to recognise that there are people who are obsessive about certain things and that makes them who they are but, this is different from people with OCD who dislike this part of themselves that prevents them from living a full and happy life.
-Dr. Shiva Prakash