Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder involving obsessions, compulsions, or both. Obsessions are thoughts, mental pictures, or impulses that are distressing and recurring. Common obsessions include fears of getting a disease, fears of hurting someone, fears of forgetting to do something. Compulsions, often referred to as rituals, are actions that people feel compelled to perform to decrease anxiety or prevent something bad from happening. Common compulsions are excessive handwashing, checking behaviors, repetitive actions, hoarding, and arranging objects in a pattern.
Most people recognize that their fears are irrational and the compulsions do not make sense, yet they find themselves unable to stop. Often the thoughts that worry people with OCD go against the person’s beliefs and values, and individuals are often embarrassed or worry about disclosing the thoughts to others. Symptoms of OCD may impair functioning in major life areas including school, work, and social realms. In severe cases, an individual may avoid places or situations that make them anxious contributing to difficulty leaving one’s home. Although genetics plays a role in OCD, learning and life stress may also contribute to the disorder.
A student experiencing symptoms of OCD may not attend class regularly, appear visibly anxious, experience difficulty concentrating, and/or engage in observable ritualistic behavior.
If you observe a student who appears to be struggling with OCD:
- Be supportive and provide reassurance.
- Talk to the student in private, when possible, about your concerns and observations.
- Refer the student to Counseling and Wellness Services, offer to call CWS in your office with the student present, or offer to walk the student over to the office.
- Attempt to diagnose or treat the condition.
- Appear judgmental or dismissive of the student’s concerns.
- Assume the student will effectively deal with the issue without treatment.