OCD or Highly Organized?

How to Tell If You Have an Obsession

Many people like to tease highly organized individuals that they have OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). But there are differences between the two, though these are basically a matter of degree.

There’s a gray area between being organized and having OCD, and it can be difficult for regular folks to differentiate between them. Here are some ways to help you tell the difference:

Do You Clean Your House a Lot?

Many people clean their homes regularly, because who wants to live in a messy abode? But those with OCD take things too far. While some people may spend a few minutes cleaning the house every day and then do some major cleaning on weekends, OCD sufferers spend many hours each day cleaning the house.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many hours of cleaning can turn being organized into OCD, but specialists maintain that the more important fact is what you feel when you don’t clean. If you’re only mildly annoyed, then you’re just organized. But if you feel extremely afraid and anxious because you can’t clean the house, then this can indicate OCD.

You Double-Check Too Much

It’s normal for people to sometimes worry that they’ve left the house door unlocked when they’re going to work or travelling on vacation. They may worry about lights that are still on, running faucets, and the TV continuing to run. It’s normal if you want to come back and double-check. It’s also normal to just let it be every once in a while because you don’t suddenly feel out of control if you don’t check.

But double-checking an excessive number of times (such as 20 times) is an obvious sign that you’re not merely organized. If you have to do this every day and it interferes with your life by making you super-late for work, then you have a problem. This means that you absolutely can’t just let it go.

It helps, if you’re an organized person, to have an SOP about turning off lights, appliances, faucets, and even the HVAC system each day. That makes a lot of sense. But if you already have a standard procedure and you still want to check things, you’re getting into OCD areas.

Sometimes you can make a ritual out of it, and that’s a sign of OCD too. When you need to check the faucet exactly 5 times each day to see that it’s not open, it may be a sign of OCD.

Your Need to Be Organized Isn’t Merely a Preference

Plenty of people like to have things all organized and neat. But this is a preference—a want instead of a need. When you feel the absolutely need to keep things always organized, you’re straying into OCD territory.

Again, you have a problem when you’re not just looking to organize stuff but you’re focusing on getting things “just right”. When you feel the need for the things to look right and feel right or else, then this kind of perfectionism isn’t exactly natural. That’s especially true when you need to make sure that a certain number of books need to go together. If you insist that each bookshelf must have exactly 12 books, then we have a problem here.

So check out your home. Maybe you can have a friend give you an objective point of view. To want things neat and organized is one thing. But when you want everything straight and you’re measuring things with a ruler to make sure that they’re straight, that goes beyond being organized.