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What is OCD?


OCD wants us to believe that the world is ominous and threatening.

OCD is a malevolent advisor that wants to deceive us about the fundamental nature of the world.

It wants us to believe that the world shouldn’t have any sharp edges and that our experience should be as smooth and snag-free as possible.

If snags are apparent, it tells us that we should exchange our current experience for one that is more perfect.

Although nice in theory, embracing such a philosophy creates an impossible situation.

After all, there is no snag-free world to inhabit.

Even the best world is fundamentally flawed.

The more we become preoccupied by the pursuit of perfection, the more hyperaware we become of life’s flaws.

As Dr. Jon Grayson writes, as soon as we begin comparing anything real to the ideal, the real becomes intolerably cheapened in the comparison. Reality, no matter how good, can never live up to the fantasy.

OCD is one of the most variable and least variable of all the DSM diagnoses.

It’s incredible in its symptomatic diversity; no two individuals experience OCD in exactly the same way.  At the same time, OCD is remarkably consistent across domains when considered from the vantage point of wishes.

All symptoms involve wishing for something that is impossible: wishing for perfect certainty, wishing for perfect safety, wishing for that perfect feeling…  When wishes alone do not suffice, rituals allow the sufferer to try to manifest the wish in the real world.  Although these rituals are well-intentioned, they are ultimately malignant.

Sometimes the only way to live a good life is to give up the wishes and learn to accept and co-exist with life’s imperfections.

Questions?  Comments?  Thoughts about the fundamental nature of OCD?  Sound off below.

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  1. What a unique way of describing OCD. Hmmm . . . you’ve given me things to ponder, Dr. Seay!

    • Thanks, Sunny! It was one of those days when I intended to blog about a specific topic but then the post decided it wanted to be something else entirely. 🙂

      • love u sir the article and everything was so great !

  2. Very well said 🙂

  3. This is an excellent description of OCD and its underlying wishes. I’m just realizing how OCD sets me outside reality much of the time. Thank you for this post.

    • Thanks, Tina. I think that ultimately, wishes and comparisons can thwart our ability to accept and live in the present moment.

  4. “There is no snag-free world.” How true! And the ironic thing is, the more OCD gets involved, the “snaggier” the world becomes! Great Post.

  5. Thank you very much for this website, Dear Doctor Seay! You are amazing person with great heart! 🙂

  6. Dr. Seay,
    Very helpful article. My son seems to exhibit OCD symptoms. He is
    striving to go it alone. Does CBT help this disorder?
    I suggested to him to seek a therapist and CBT. Would this be correct?


  7. I have ocd and believe it is some type of sensorimotor ocd where I worry about the movement of my body and it working correctly. Not just swallowing or breathing but movement in general. Have you heard of this?

  8. i want to cry reading this

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