Repetitive thoughts and behaviors can be a troubling thing to deal with. They can make you stressed, sad, and less productive at work. Sometimes they go away on their own, but other times, they last much longer. Getting to the root cause is the best way to understand repetitive thoughts and behaviors, which most people try to do. They usually end up finding obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, in their search. But are repetitive thoughts and behaviors always OCD?
What Are Common OCD Symptoms?
OCD is a very broad disorder with quite literally hundreds of symptoms. Repetitive thoughts and urges are the most common symptoms of OCD, which is how it got its name. But here are some other common symptoms:
- Counting objects, blinks, breaths, taps, bites, etc.
- Excessive hand washing to eliminate anxiety over contamination
- Needing your environment to be symmetrical
- Worry about the death of yourself or a loved one without following a “rule”
- Repeatedly checking household appliances like toasters or stoves to ensure they’re off
- Unpleasant and unrealistic urges such as hurting others
If you deal with any of the above symptoms in addition to repetitive thoughts and compulsions, you may have OCD. Again, there are hundreds of OCD symptoms, so there are people with OCD who don’t have any of the symptoms above. So, it’s best to write down anything you think may be a symptom of OCD and bring it to a licensed healthcare professional. They can help you understand what is OCD and what is not.
Other Causes of Repetitive Thoughts and Behaviors
The answer is, no, repetitive thoughts and behaviors are not always OCD. However, they certainly can be. It’s very important to seek counseling or therapy to get a diagnosis for your repetitive behaviors. Even if you don’t have a mental health disorder, sometimes vocalizing your thoughts can be beneficial. So, don’t hesitate to see a therapist, whether it be in person or online.
Repetitive thoughts, sometimes called rumination, are very common in anxiety disorders. OCD is a type of anxiety disorder, but rumination also occurs in others. Constantly worrying and going over scenarios in your mind are very common symptoms of most anxiety disorders. In particular, social anxiety and generalized anxiety sufferers tend to overthink greatly. Severe anxiety disorders can leave the brain feeling as though it never shuts off.
With repetitive behaviors, some people with anxiety will create coping mechanisms. These could be regular behaviors such as crossing their arms or chewing on a piece of gum. However, when you must do something in order to get rid of anxiety or avoid anxiety, it crosses the line into OCD.
Are your repetitive thoughts food-related? Perhaps you constantly think about calories or constantly think about what type of food you will eat next. If this is the case, you may be dealing with an eating disorder. There are a few types of eating disorders, so just because you don’t restrict food, it doesn’t mean you don’t have one. Constantly thinking about food is certainly a sign of disorderly eating and you should seek help for it. Even if you don’t have an abnormal eating routine, it’s best to be proactive than reactive.
Something important to note is there is something called food OCD. Food OCD is obsessive and compulsive behavior around food. For example, someone may feel a particular section of the pizza is dirty. Or, they may think the texture feels wrong, so they can’t eat it. If this sounds like the thoughts and behaviors you have, you may have OCD and not an eating disorder.
Repetitive thoughts can also be a sign of depression. With depression, repetitive thoughts are usually negative, as described on this webpage: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/blog/repetitive-thoughts-and-behaviors. They could be remembering something embarrassing or remembering something traumatic. For people with depression, remembering and feeling low about these negative thoughts can consume an entire day. If you only deal with repetitive thoughts that make you low in mood, you may have depression rather than OCD.
Do You Have OCD?
The only way to know if you have OCD is by getting a diagnosis from a licensed healthcare professional. When you explain the symptoms you have, they can weed out the other disorders with similar symptoms.
About Author: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with Mind-Diagnostics.org. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.