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March 27, 2012 at 12:11 PMComments: 4 Faves: 0

A Day in the Life: OCD

By Brad Ter Haar More Blogs by This Author

Even if you know someone with OCD, you probably don't realize just how consuming the disorder can be. It affects one's ability to perform even the most simple, everyday tasks. This “day in the life” came from The OCD Schedule (A day in the life of an OCD sufferer), a blog written by Paul Hickson, who used to feel like OCD controlled his life. After overcoming the condition, he chose to write about OCD and shed light on the often misunderstood condition. Direct quotes in this example come from Hickson's writing. It's a real eye opener to the seriousness of this anxiety disorder.

Before reading further though, be advised that this “day in the life” example is not necessarily characteristic of every OCD sufferer. There is no such thing as a “typical day” for someone with OCD, just as there is no “typical day” for someone with cancer or depression.

Each individual with the disorder experiences different symptoms, and a handful of different types of OCD exist. This example serves to raise awareness of what people with OCD may struggle with every day of the year, and hopefully you will realize just how severe of an impact the disorder can have on the everyday life of an OCD sufferer.

Waking Up

7:00 am: Get out of bed exactly at 7:00, but wait for alarm to beep four times. As soon as it has beeped four times, immediately shut it off.

7:01 am: Stretch each arm and leg for 10 seconds, no more, no less. When finished, make the bed, ensuring that the sheets, comforter, and pillows are perfectly symmetrical, taking as much time as you need to leave the bed looking neat. Leave your bedroom, opening and closing the door behind you four times.

7:10 am: Approach the bathroom, touching the door handle four separate times before entering. Grab some cleaning supplies underneath the sink and clean the mirror, toilet, and sink. Then, use the toilet, flushing it four times, and head over to the sink. Thoroughly wash your hands and arms with four squirts of soap, counting down from twenty, before rinsing and drying. Begin shaving, making sure you begin on the left side of your face, and end on your right side.

7:35 am: Take a shower, turning the faucet on and off four separate times. While washing, try to block out intrusive thoughts about germs and bacteria you didn’t decontaminate while cleaning the sink. After finishing your shower, grab the green towel you only use on Mondays and dry off, carefully placing the towel between the towels you use for Sundays and Tuesdays when finished.    

8:00 am: Get dressed, using clothes that were washed the night before. Carefully examine your shirt, pants, and socks for any stains you may have missed while washing them. Take the hanger that was holding your shirt, and place it in the box next to the door that contains hangers that need to be washed, to avoid spreading contaminants.

8:12 am: Prepare some breakfast. Place a slice of bread in the toaster, counting to 40 before popping the toast out early. Spread some peanut butter onto the toast, starting with the left side of the toast, and ending on the right side. Pour some orange juice into a glass, and sit down at your table, cleaning the seat before sitting down. Eat a bite of toast and then drink some of the OJ. Eat another piece of toast and have another swallow of OJ, doing it in this order until finished.

8:27 am: Wait for the clock to read 8:28, and then check all of the house’s electrical appliances, verifying that they are all off. Grab your car keys and leave the house, locking the door behind you. Begin unlocking your car, and quickly run back to your front door, making sure it is locked. Head back to your car and start it, then turn it back off. Start it again, then turn it off again. Do this twice more before leaving the driveway.

Heading to Work

8:54 am: Arrive at your work’s parking lot, backing your car in and out of your parking space four different times before locking and leaving your car. Try to stop worrying if all of your appliances at home are turned off.

8:58 am: Reach your work’s entrance, opening and closing the door four times. Start the process over since a coworker passes you and says, “Good Morning,” interrupting your routine.

9:02 am: "Sit down at your cubical. Make sure everything on the desk is exactly the right distance apart from each other using your ruler. Ensure that the mouse mat is parallel with the edge of the table." Grab the Windex from your desk, and clean the computer screen, moving your hand in four horizontal motions.

9:22 am: Check emails and return missed calls. If the phone does ring throughout the day, only answer it after it has rang four times. Head to the break room and clean your coffee mug two times, and then dump out whatever coffee is in the pot, and brew a fresh pot. While the coffee is brewing, clean the break room table and chairs, so they are immaculate. Next, pour some coffee and head back to your cubicle.

9:50 am: Continue working, reading all documents twice over. Before breaking for lunch, review your files, to check that they are still in alphabetical order.

12:00 pm: Head to the break room, and sit in the chair you always do, next to your coworker Mike. Before sitting down, clean your seat, and place your lunch on the table, arranging it perpendicular to Mike’s lunch. While chatting with Mike, you try to stop obsessing over the thought of blurting out something inappropriate. Luckily, you don’t embarrass yourself, and the thought eventually passes.

12:25 pm: Finish your lunch, waiting four seconds after you rise from your chair before wishing Mike a good afternoon. On your way to your desk, grab four paper clips from the supply shelf. You place them in your pocket to add them to your collection at home.

12:30 pm: Recheck your files, making sure they are still alphabetized. Continue working as the afternoon progresses, washing your hands each even-numbered hour of the day.

5:04 pm: Leave your cubicle exactly at four minutes after 5 o’clock. Say goodbye to coworkers and head to your car, starting the engine and turning it off three times, before starting it up again and leaving the parking lot and driving home.

Returning Home

5:32 pm: Enter your house and check to see if all appliances are turned off. Change into a clean pair of clothes and add the four paperclips from work to your collection, crossing out the previous number you have written down, and adding four to the total number, which has now reached 416 paperclips.

5:47 pm: Take a walk, being sure to avoid stepping on the cracks in between the sidewalk.

6:14 pm: Return home and clean the kitchen. When finished, bring dirty clothes to the laundry room and wash each load of clothes twice, before placing them in the dryer.

7:08 pm: Prepare dinner, setting the table so your plate and utensils are at perfect 90 degree angles. When finished eating, "thoroughly wash plates and cutlery 4 times and then place each plate inside polythene zip bags."

7:52 pm: Continue reading a novel you have been reading the past few weeks. Read four pages and then stop reading for the night.

8:02 pm: Return a call to a friend, carefully wiping all germs and contaminants from the phone before and after using it.

8:36 pm: Turn on the T.V., making sure the volume is at a multiple of four.

9:55 pm: "Go to bed. Turn off the TV and make sure everything is switched off by touching everything in the house." Brush teeth four times, and head to bed. While falling asleep, block out thoughts about upsetting friends and coworkers because of something you do or say.

Again, this is not to say someone with OCD experiences this exact type of day, but it is meant to provide a glimpse of how great an impact OCD has on one's everyday life.

Photo Credits:

Arlington County


Marcin Whichary

Leah Lockhart Roger


Red Bubble: The OCD Schedule (A day in the life of an OCD sufferer)

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  • OCD does come in many shapes, sizes and forms. No matter how severe or not, one having rituals and feeling they have to be done a certain way, certain amount of times and struggling even after completing the rituals is a painful way of living.

    I think everyone has a form of OCD. It is not a choice of how a person wants to live their life, it is embedded in their brain they must do these things. It can be another "full time" job, making life that is exhausting even more so.

    Great blog!

  • Very interesting post! This definitely expanded my understanding of OCD.

  • Nice - thanks for the insight!

  • Victoria, I like your comparison of OCD becoming a "full time job."
    Since OCD is not as well known as something like depression or a chronic illness, many people seem to disregard just how serious the anxiety disorder actually is.

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