What you must know about OCD and Perfectionism

Do you often refer to being fussy, or your ‘high standards’ as OCD?
Have you ever wondered if you have OCD, or is it just your expectations?


ocd perfectionism the difference cleaning obsessed

You might be the sort of person that likes everything really clean or in a particular order, or your work needs to be done to a certain standard. You may even find yourself not being able to function properly or leave the house until a chore is done the right way, and laugh about it with your friends, “Oh I’m so OCD”. It is not uncommon for people to confuse being “perfectionistic” or having high standards with having OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).



So how can you distinguish OCD from Perfectionism?


The two are often intertwined. People who are perfectionistic may have OCD. Equally so, many people with OCD have a need for perfection and certainty in situations.

Perfectionists have high standards that can often be unrealistic and inflexible. e.g. you should never make a mistake. You probably don’t even recognise and admit that your standards are too high, and you believe that you should just work harder.


Does this sound familiar?


To be able to tell the difference, take a moment to ponder – do you think anything bad would happen if you did not do something? For example, do you clean because you like your house to be spotless (a high standard), or do you clean excessively because you are plagued by thoughts that there may be germs on surfaces and either you or child may get sick and become seriously ill (more likely to be OCD)?


Do you check and recheck your work to ensure that it is done to your standard, or because you are experiencing overwhelming doubt that you accidentally wrote an offensive word in your work?


OCD actions are more of an obsession – it may be intrusive or repetitive thoughts, images or urges that are distressing, contamination concerns, unwanted sexual or religious thoughts, or images and fears of harming yourself or others. It’s overwhelming doubt whether you have done something, e.g. locked the front door or turned the oven off and then a perception of dire consequences resulting such as my house will burn down or I will hurt my children.


Those living with OCD often engage in compulsions or repetitive behaviours/rituals, e.g. over checking things, excessive washing (hands 10x in one go), ordering or aligning items precisely, tapping or touching objects, constantly counting, praying or saying a protective phrase. These repetitive actions are to reduce your anxiety as you believe they will prevent something bad from happening. You have a perceived level of control over the outcome.


Things to monitor about your behaviours:

  • Your thinking (e.g. expectations, standards or obsessions)
  • The types of situations in which such thoughts arise
  • How you feel in response to your thoughts
  • Your assessment or interpretation of your thoughts, e.g. what does this thought say about you? (you are a bad or dangerous person).


If you’re unsure as to whether you have OCD or are perfectionistic, why not complete our OCD checklist?


If you find that your OCD is causing you distress day-to-day, or your perfectionism is beginning to interfere with your life, now is the time to make a change and reach out for support. You want to ensure you are spending your time doing activities that are meaningful to you.


Written by Clinical Psychologist Chantelle Martyn – www.creatingchange.net.au

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