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 the fear of getting a disease, hurting someone, and 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 hand washing, checking behaviors, repetitive actions, hoarding, and arranging objects in a pattern.
Most people suffering from OCD recognize when their fears are irrational and their compulsions do not make sense, yet they find themselves unable to stop. Often the thoughts that worry someone 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 cause anxiety, contributing to difficulty with 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 skip class regularly, appear visibly anxious, experience difficulty with 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 Services, offer to call the office with the student present (906-487-2538), or offer to accompany the student to the office (Administration Building, room 301).
- 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.