Q&A: A Nagging Compulsion

Q:    I like to arrange my cushions on my living room sofa in a symmetrical manner.  If they aren't, I simply cannot sleep soundly.  Do I have a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

A:    Generally, everyone of us has our little quirks that help us get comfortable and achieve restful sleep.  For some of us, it takes adequate fluffing of the pillows and placement of things to achieve a "secure" space for rest.  In our highly-string society, it is unsurprising to find many Singaporeans getting preoccupied with achieving perfection or wanting things "just the way we like it" before we deem it okay.

        Seeking the right conditions to achieve that feeling of security is important for all of us and these right conditions are likely to vary across different individuals, and can be put down to just plain old fussiness.  A true "OCD" condition, on the other hand, would exhibit severe symptoms that can impede our daily social and occupational functioning - sometimes to the extent of the sufferer being unable to care for him/herself.

        So, before getting too concerned over household arrangements, consider if there are current stressors or worries in your life that can impact your sleep and recognise the fact that you are the sort of person that tends to bother much about the furniture.  That being said, if you have serious concerns about your current difficulties, and it seems like they are getting worse, it might be worthwhile getting yourself assessed.

So, is it OCD or is it not?  

Suggested reading regarding treatment - Psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral approaches of obsessive-compulsive disorder: is it time to work through our ambivalence?  Kempke SLuyten P.  Bull Menninger Clin. 2007 Fall;71(4):291-311. doi: 10.1521/bumc.2007.71.4.291.