Why I Will Approach You if I Think You Have OCD

helpingSome might find it blunt, but if I notice something that looks like compulsions and I think you have OCD, I will go up and ask you about it. Now, not all compulsions are visible, but some are and seem quite obviously like OCD. I can spot it figuratively from a mile away. I did this evening when proctoring an exam, and I approached someone after. A student had asked after multiple exams if he could stay a few minutes to check that he bubbled in the answers he intended to. Then he sat there and meticulously checked each page, sometimes going back to check a page multiple times.

Now as someone with OCD, and as someone who used to have this exact same compulsion, when I see this my heart melts. I can feel his anxiety and pain. So while some might view it as inappropriate or invasive, I don’t. I walked up after the exam and quietly asked, “So, I used to do something similar with checking my exam. Has anyone ever told you that you might have OCD. If so, there are resources available like time and a half on exams.”

He took it well, explained that yes, he probably does have OCD, but that he doesn’t think it’s bad enough to need accommodations. I responded that of course that is a personal decision. He thanked me, and the conversation ended. I left feeling glad I had said something.

I’m glad I said something because to me it’s worth the risk of embarrassing myself or being totally wrong about someone’s reason for doing repetitive behaviors. But if there is the slightest chance that they have OCD and weren’t aware of resources until I told them about them, I’m willing to take that risk.

I’m not sure what I would have done if someone had noticed my repetitive behaviors and said something to me about OCD. Before being diagnosed I might have been confused or even defensive. But I do know that I probably would have thought about it and maybe even googled it. Maybe I could’ve been diagnosed earlier or could have found exposure and response prevention (ERP) treatment sooner. If my being assertive connects even one person to resources or a potential diagnosis and treatment, all the fear about approaching someone is worth it.



  1. Sadly, I used to view this kind of checking behavior as reflective of being a responsible student versus an unhealthy and unnecessary compulsion. But, way back in my school days, the chances that a proctor knew anything about OCD were much lower than the possibility of the Cleveland Browns winning a Super Bowl. Fortunately, that is much less true today as OCD awareness spreads. You did the right thing in this situation.


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