What is the difference between OCD and being really, really organized? I have heard this question quite a few times as a therapist. Organization is well known and talked about now. It is everywhere anymore, an organized closet with no piece of clothing out of place or all the spices in alphabetical order and in the same containers. We see this shared across social media, like Tik Tok or Instagram, and even on streaming like Netflix. You have also heard people joke about OCD when someone has an organized space. But is it really OCD? Let’s take a further look.
What does organizing mean?
Organizing is the process of putting things in order or trying to create an order for items. Items can be a variety of things, most often physical items such as books, clothes, and more. Organizing helps us make sense of things by finding similarities in some way, making a process easier, and may be aesthetically pleasing to see.
What is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD is an anxiety disorder where someone experiences obsessions and/or compulsions, basically a way to organize the symptoms further. For someone to experience obsessions these may look like thoughts, impulses, or images that are recurring and intrusive; it makes it hard to focus on other things or to complete responsibilities when this occurs. With compulsions, it can look like: behaviors that need to be repeated to decrease the obsessive and repeating thoughts. Someone can recognize that the thoughts or the behaviors are not reasonable to maintain, however, it is easier to continue to decrease this anxiety as that is more distressing than stopping.
So when does organizing meet the criteria for OCD? Organizing can have many benefits and bring order to our lives, however, for some, it can be all-consuming.
Do any of these happen to you?
You have to complete tasks to prevent feeling stress, worry, or anxiety,
You cannot stop thinking about putting those things in “their place”,
You touch or move items even if they remain in the same place so you can stop thinking about them,
You have to have every item line up symmetrically,
You feel preoccupied with organizing things as soon as possible,
You feel exhausted by keeping up with organizing,
You find that organizing takes up more time than you would like.
If any of those questions relate to you (or even the blog picture related to you) and you are looking to take back some of the control that organizing has on you, I am here to help! While I specialize in working with those experiencing symptoms of OCD and just because you related to those questions, does not mean you have OCD, I am here to help when it comes to organizing and finding a balance.
One strategy to try is to try to delay gratification or the satisfaction you experience when you organize. Schedule it in your day so you know that you can still get to it, but do not address it immediately. Another way to delay this is to wait until you pass by it. An example is if you need to take items upstairs, place the items on the stairs and then the next time you go upstairs, take the items with you. This is a strategy to try and see if it works for you! Be kind to yourself when you try something new, it takes time to create a routine and a habit. You may forget to use a strategy to help now and again, as we all do when we are practicing something new.
Looking to take more control? We can work together! You can contact me here.
Blog Disclaimer - These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.