Managing OCD as a College Student

Managing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be an arduous journey, especially for young adults who are navigating the complexities of student life and newfound independence. OCD is a common, chronic, and often misunderstood mental health disorder characterized by uncontrollable, recurrent thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) that individuals feel compelled to perform due to overwhelming anxiety. These obsessions can range from fears of germs and contamination to intrusive thoughts about harm or the need for symmetry and perfection.

Effect of OCD on Students

For students within this age group, the impact of OCD can be profound, affecting academic performance and daily life in various ways. Intrusive thoughts can lead to intense anxiety, potentially prompting impulsive actions that further disrupt the learning environment. In this context, it becomes crucial to not only recognize the signs and symptoms of OCD but also to explore effective strategies for managing it, fostering understanding and support within educational environments, and seeking appropriate treatment options.

Common Triggers and Symptoms

The need to engage in rituals like hand-washing, rewriting sentences, or reorganizing notes can consume hours of the day, hindering academic progress.

Some common examples at school:

Trigger: Writing assignments or answering questions

Obsession: Feelings and urges related to having something just right or perfect

Compulsion: repeatedly revising things until it is “just right” or extreme slowness with work or activities, needing reassurance of the correct answer

Trigger: Communal spaces like bathrooms, gyms, and dorms

Obsession: Fear of germs. contamination, and or disorganization

Compulsion: Avoiding touching surfaces others may have touched like doorknobs or shared supplies, overly repetitive hand-washing or use of sanitizer

Trigger: Doors and windows

Obsession: Fear of harm

Compulsion: checking behaviors such as checking doors or windows are closed, avoiding leaving safe zones

In a stressful academic setting filled with triggers, such as communal spaces or disorganized classrooms, the impact of OCD becomes even more pronounced, making it a severe disruption to both the learning process and the enjoyment of academic material. By identifying your triggers and learning how they manifest you could create a proactive approach to manage your symptoms.

Preparing for School with OCD

  1. Building a Support System

By creating a proper support system in your environment it can help you manage your needs as they evolve throughout the school year. One way to start would be to establish open communication with your loved ones so that you have trusted support as you navigate finding help. Then, search for a mental health professional  as well as appropriate school personnel that can assist you on school accommodations and referrals for specialists in OCD. Do note, that the school may not be familiar with your direct needs so it would also be helpful to find a therapist available to you.

  1. Learning how to focus and study

Recognizing your learning style is imperative for any student to maximize your learning, especially for those dealing with OCD. Are you an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner? This self-awareness can enable you to tailor your study methods and materials to match your learning style which can enhance your comprehension and retention.

  1. Learning how to focus and study

One key strategy in managing your stress and anxiety would be to create a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule without overloading your days. Allocate times for study breaks, meals, exercise, and even social activities to ensure balance. It is also crucial to prioritize sleep so that you are mentally prepared for the next day.

“A lot of people assume that having OCD means liking things organized or hating germs. It tends to be treated like a quirk or an endearing trait. But it’s so much more than that. It’s the one thing that prohibits me from being free of myself.”

– Whitney Amazeen, Author

OCD can often be a debilitating anxiety-related disorder especially for those who are learning how to navigate their daily lives as well as improve their academic performance. It can make it harder to learn with your focus frequently being split due to the overwhelming anxiety surrounding your obsessions and compulsions. If you are interested in learning more ways to manage your OCD symptoms please contact us here at Pacific CBT for a free consultation.

About The Author

Ashley Carreon currently works as a Behavior Therapist in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and a minor in Psychology from University of California, Davis. Ashley is interested in understanding intersectionality in mental health, and is planning to pursue a Master’s degree.