True Definition of "Obsessive" & "OCD"

One thing that confuses people in discussing OCD, as well as self-diagnosing themselves, is that the word “OCD,” as well as the word “obsession,” have quite different meanings when used colloquially and when used professionally.

In discussing OCD, or in self-diagnosing oneself as having OCD, one must not confuse the condition associated with the colloquial use of the term “OCD” with the condition associated with the medical or “official” use of the term.

Likewise one should not confuse the condition associated with the word “obsession” as it is used in layperson’s or colloquially with the condition associated it the formal psychological use of that same word.

I define both the “official, medical or professional” use of the term “OCD” and the word “obsessive” as the definition given in the DSM-VI (the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual 6th ed. by the American Psychological Association)—the Bible of diagnosis for the psychological, psychiatric, medical, and counseling professions.

A partial definition is given below:

(1) Recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress.

(2) The thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems.

There is a condition, known as Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) in the DSM which is a condition that roughly corresponds to the behavior associated with the layperson’s use of the term OCD.

Words often change meanings as time goes by. Look at the word “crazy” for instance

One dictionary definitions of the word “crazy” are: (1) unsound of mind; mentally unbalanced or deranged; psychopathic; insane. Two other definitions in the same dictionary are: (2) (colloquially use) foolish, wild, fantastic, etc.; or (3) not sensible or very enthusiastic or eager.

Quite a difference of meanings!

Likewise there is a great difference in the various meanings associated with the word “obsessive.”

Our term, OCD, came from a German term, Zwangsvorstellung (compelled presentation or idea).

In Great Britain Zwangsvorstellung was translated as “obsession,” while in the United States it become “compulsion.” The term “obsessive-compulsive disorder” emerged as a compromise.

Now when one says they obsess about something pleasurable, that is correct if you are using the word “obsess” in the colloquial sense of the word, but this is meaning that is in no way related (except perhaps in the most superficial way) with the “obsession” of someone who has true OCD in the professional sense.

I assure you, there is quite a difference between the obsession with beer, sex, good-looking women (or men), money, chocolate cake, new cars versus the obsessions of a person with official OCD.

Some of the more common obsessions that true OCDers have:

Harming Obsessions. An example (usually reported by women) is: someone who fears they will harm or molest their children, even though the very idea utterly appalls them.

HOCD (Homosexual OCD) Obsessions. This is where a genuine heterosexual becomes terrified they will perform a homosexual act when they have absolutely no gay tendencies, and in fact are disgusted with the very thought of such an act.

Scrupulosity. This is an obsession where a person with strong and sincere religious beliefs becomes tormented and even paralyzed in fear that they will perform some outrageously sacrilegious acts, or blasphemy against God.

There is nothing that is remotely pleasurable with these “obsessions.”

Unlike addictions, where there is at least a pleasure associated with them in the initial stages, in OCD there is never ever a pleasure connected with their obsessions, even from day one. If there were, it would be true OCD by definition.

Once again, one can have a compelling and persistent thought, or thoughts, about something like alcohol, sex, good-looking people of the opposite sex, food, and whatever, and perhaps this fits it with the way the word obsession is used around us every day, but it is NOT the obsession of OCD.
I bow to your knowledge of psychology. You are the first person on this board whose understanding of the subject has truly impressed me. I look forward to your future posts. As regards OCPD, I believe strongly that I have this disorder. However, It seems to me that OCPD is in fact "generalized obssessive thinking". My psychologist agrees, what is your take on it? Is it truly a personality disorder, or is it realy a neurological phenomenon?