5 surprising benefits of obsessive-compulsive disorder

5 surprising benefits of obsessive-compulsive disorder
5 surprising benefits of obsessive-compulsive disorder

A friend of mine has lifelong Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He checks doors three times when closing to make sure they are securely closed and wipes down utensils in restaurants before eating. He is very deliberate and methodical in everything he does, often taking longer than usual to complete tasks to ensure they are done right. Despite his OCD issues, he is also one of the most successful people I know personally, professionally and financially. This is largely due to the constructive channeling of his TOC tendencies.

psychology today defines OCD as “an anxiety disorder that traps people in repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and behavioral rituals (compulsions) that can be completely disabling”.

Examples of obsessions include recurring anxieties about germs, contamination, physical contact, home and work safety, making mistakes with money and other calculations, mistakes in paperwork, things that are disorganized and out of place, and things that don’t follow a set routine. Examples of compulsions include the constant need to clean, inspect, count, hoard, organize, and confirm. For those whose OCD symptoms are affecting their well-being and relationships, it is very important to seek support from medical and mental health professionals.

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Although people with OCD experience some difficulties, studies also suggest that certain OCD traits can have beneficial effects, especially when harnessed constructively.[1][2][3][4] Here are five potential benefits of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

1. Caution and attention

Many people with OCD are cautious and aware. At home, people with OCD may experience greater stability in their lives due to persistent attention to issues such as the day’s schedule, personal hygiene, personal or family budget, home security, home maintenance and repairs, and regular medical checkups. When done appropriately, these are all positive actions that help individuals stay on top of their lives.

2. Initiative and reducing uncertainty

At its most basic, OCD is often linked to fear of uncertainty, fear of negative outcomes, and fear of not being in control (among other causes). These inhibitions can motivate a person with OCD to take the initiative and deal with problems early on, reducing anxiety about the unknown. They apply risk reduction practices in decision making and take the necessary time until a task or problem is adequately resolved.

Examples of proactive risk reduction include going to the doctor at the first sign of discomfort, backing up your computer weekly against malfunctions, and carefully reviewing a business contract before signing it. Such vigilance, while requiring time and patience, can detect problems and help reduce problems down the line. It often pays to do your due diligence.

3. Planning and imagination

Some people with OCD are very focused on their future and often spend a lot of time planning for it. Whenever possible, they like to feel that they are in control of the direction of their life and can engage in creative brainstorming and detailed research to achieve their vision. The reassuring thought of where they are going can also generate a sense of purpose and passion (eg, planning a career change, devising an investment strategy, evaluating a city for retirement).

Research suggests OCD may be correlated with creativity[2]. A possible explanation for this is that some people with OCD are willing to “think outside the box” to identify ideas and solutions to ease their anxieties.

4. Redundancy and backups

When it comes to planning, some people with OCD build redundancy into important efforts – there’s always a “plan B” and maybe a “plan C.” Examples include setting up various types of insurance, financial contingency plans and natural disaster preparedness plans. By having options and backups, an OCD person may feel like they can handle the unexpected.

5. Consciousness

Studies have positively correlated OCD with the trait of conscientiousness, which includes qualities such as self-efficacy, duty, effort, deliberation, and self-discipline.[1][2]

When properly channeled and with the support of medical and mental health professionals, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder can turn their struggles into benefits and enjoy a healthier, more satisfying quality of life.

© 2022 by Preston C. Ni.

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