Tatiana Answers: What are the signs that quirky habits are turning into OCD?

Dear Tatiana,

We all have quirky habits but what are the signs that these habits are turning into OCD? My high school aged daughter sets an alarm on her phone when she takes a study break to remind her that break time is over. Recently I discovered that she showers only on the hour and half hour and when suggested that she can do it at any time she looked panicked. The panicked look concerned me. Are there signs I need to watch for?




Dear Anonymous,

I am not worried about your daughter setting the alarm. (She may have the gift of excellent executive functioning in this area.) I am concerned about the rigidity around the times of showers and the fear you observed in her face. Here are some other things to look for. Are you observing your daughter having invasive thoughts or a desire to complete ritualistic behaviors? Does it make her feel anxious? Does she try to ignore the thoughts or impulses, but finds doing so leaves her feeling stressed? Does she take some sort of action in a certain kind of way in order to feel relief from the discomfort of the impulse? Does the idea of altering her pattern create fear? Is she afraid that if she does not think in a certain kind of way or behave in a certain kind of way something bad will happen? Is what she fears an unrealistic fear? Do her thoughts or need to do things in a certain kind of way take up time from her day? It sounds like your daughter is experiencing several of these symptoms. If it is not better explained by another mental illness, illicit or legal drug use or an organic cause, I recommend having her evaluated by a therapist who specializes in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Even if she is not experiencing a full-blown episode, early intervention will prevent the progression and will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.


Tatiana Matthews LPC
Atlanta Specialized Care

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