What is the relationship between OCD and the feeling of responsibility?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the psychological disorders linked to a strong feeling of anguish that has most captured the attention of the media and popular culture.

Normally, the most widespread idea about this disorder is that it is a pathological extreme of perfectionism: an insane tendency to want everything to be in the exact place it should be. However, this is a wrong belief. The TOC is not linked to perfectionism, but to a personality trait known as Responsibility .

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What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a psychological disorder that appears in the diagnostic reference manuals in the world of clinical psychology and psychiatry. It is characterized by the presence of repetitive and intrusive thoughts (that is, they arise involuntarily without the person thinking about a similar issue) that are associated with a great feeling of anguish.

This feeling of sudden and intense discomfort leads the person to perform repetitive routines to try to alleviate the anguish, “closing the mental circle” opened by intrusive thinking through a kind of ritual created by the person himself.

The TOC may seem tribal if we assume that it is only the consequence of an uncomfortable thought, but it is not so; it can seriously harm the person, drastically altering their mood in the medium and long term , and is associated with a greater tendency to attempt suicide (although, being the latter a statistical phenomenon, it is not something that happens to them to all people with OCD).

An example

An example of a person who has developed OCD is as follows. A 25-year-old begins in a new job, and believes that he is qualified to work in it. However, on the first day he took his place, he remembers a situation in which, according to him, he was ridiculous in front of his entire class of institute for not knowing how to do an oral presentation well.

This image, together with the idea that possibly many people remember that event, makes the young man begin to feel a lot of amusement and guilt, to the point of not being able to think otherwise in the next few minutes. To “disconnect” from that sensation, he is forced to perform an action he has learned to associate with the fading of anguish and guilt: scratching his face always following movement patterns , in a certain order, and in 13 series, a behind another, representing the number of years he was when that happened to him.

The relationship of the TOC with low responsibility

To explain, in summary, that the OCD is linked to an excessive amount of perfectionism may be appropriate if we are explaining it without going into too much detail to someone who does not know much about the subject. However, if we want to have a reasonably realistic idea about what it means to develop this disorder, it is necessary to reject that supposed link between OCD and the tendency to seek perfection.

It is true that there is a characteristic, called scrupulousness, that is related to a mental disorder similar to OCD: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. This disorder is usually confused with the previous one because of the obvious resemblance of its name, but, in fact, it is very different.

In the Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, there is a tendency towards extreme perfectionism . Specifically, the people who develop it get very high scores on the personality trait known as Responsibility, which indicates the propensity to take care that everything goes as it should, even if it requires effort. On the other hand, in people with OCD, just the opposite is observed: they score very low in Responsibility, which means that they are normally more disorganized and tend not to always meet the small day-to-day objectives.

Thus, in the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder it is not only the fact that the need is felt to perform “rituals” repetitively. It is also in what happens just before that need arises: the feeling that there are many aspects of life that have escaped its control and generate chaos around it .

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Do you need help to treat OCD?

Although Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can cause serious problems, that does not mean that it can only be treated medically, through the use of psychotropic drugs. These medications can help alleviate the symptoms when the worst crises occur, but they do not “cure” the patient. To combat the disorder from the root we must intervene on the behavior, those behavior patterns that keep OCD alive.

As a psychologist specializing in therapy for adults and adolescents and Director of the Begoña Fernández Psychology Center , I often work with cases of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, helping to undo the sequence of actions that feed the development of this mental disorder. If you are interested in seeing my contact information or knowing more about what psychotherapy is, click here .


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