I recently spent 10 minutes trying to fix a lampshade that's a little bit crooked. I have a hard time going to bed with the dishes undone. I check to see that my car door is locked at least two times after I've locked it, even though I almost never forget. I have a personality that trends toward Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but I can control my thoughts and behaviors.

For some, though, compulsions and obsessions take over. OCD is a real problem for over 2 million adults in the U.S., with most people diagnosed in early adulthood. If you or someone you love is working to manage or overcome OCD, these five suggestions will help.

Educate yourself

If you think you might be suffering from OCD, learn about the disorder. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­The National Institute of Mental Health offers a good introductory article with simple definitions of obsessions (frequent upsetting thoughts) and compulsions (rituals or behaviors performed to stop obsessions). Websites like the International OCD Foundation are a good starting place for learning about the disorder. You can also try a symptom checker like this one posted on PsychCentral. If someone you know suffers from OCD, you will better understand that person and what you can do to help by understanding the disorder.

Be patient

Behavioral therapy is one way to deal with OCD, but it takes time and patience to train your body and mind to stop compulsive behaviors and the anxiety that accompanies them. If you are going through this, be patient with yourself. Recognize your effort and progress and realize that it will take time for treatment to work.

If you are helping someone deal with OCD, you will need to be patient as he or she works to overcome obsessive behaviors. In fact, your behavior might be enabling OCD in your loved one. Consider the changes you might need to make to help your friend or family member overcome OCD.

Seek medical help

If obsessive thoughts and compulsions take over your life and keep you from doing things you enjoy, you need to get help from a medical professional. A therapist who specializes in OCD can help you change your behaviors, and a psychiatrist can prescribe medication and other specialized therapies. Getting help for a loved one who is struggling with OCD is important. When OCD makes functioning in daily life impossible, it's time to consult a doctor. The initial conversation may be difficult, but life will be better for everyone when OCD is under control.

Keep busy in other ways

People who are working to overcome their compulsions like to keep their hands busy. Sometimes they choose knitting to keep themselves from performing rituals like constant hand-washing and cleaning. Once you've identified your compulsions, you can try to replace them with more positive behaviors. A therapist is very helpful in this process.

Get support

If you are suffering from OCD, talking with others with the disorder will help you realize you are not alone. Your doctor or therapist may be able to guide you to local support groups. There are also online message boards and support groups.

Living with someone with OCD can be difficult, particularly if his rituals interfere with life in your home. You may need support as well. Find a support group for families and friends of those with mental disorders and OCD. Being able to talk about challenges with others who are experiencing similar feelings will help you.

OCD is a challenging condition, but it is also one that can be managed. If you're concerned about your own thoughts and behaviors, or you see signs of OCD in someone you love, speak up and get help. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and OCD doesn't need to keep you from living your best life.

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