Handling Stress and Anxiety: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Louis set the alarm clock each weekday for 5 a.m. although he did not love to be at work before 8:30, and only lived a few blocks away. He was plagued by various rituals that took hours to perform each morning. He felt compelled to start with elaborate cleansing activities followed by checking, arranging and rearranging scores of household items.


It’s perfectly normal to check things once or twice, to see that the doors are locked, the stove has been turned off, the alarm clock has been set, and to occasionally worry about whether or not various tasks have been adequately or safely completed.

Some people, however, spend so much time repeatedly checking and re-checking things, and experience such intense worry and anxiety if they don’t, that their compulsions seriously interfere with their lives and emotional well-being. These folks may be suffering from a condition known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ~ OCD.

Obsessions are intrusive, recurrent and persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses or images that often seem frightening and senseless and tend to create high levels of anxiety.

Compulsions are repetitive and intentional behaviors that are performed in response to an obsession, or according to certain rules, or in a ritualistic fashion. The purpose of the compulsion is to neutralize or prevent anxiety or some dreaded event or situation.

Most of the time OCD sufferers recognize that their compulsions are irrational or excessive, but, nevertheless, feel powerless to resist or stop them.

OCD takes many forms. In addition to obsessing about safety or responsibility, and thus checking things compulsively, some people obsess about dirt, germs, contamination, or disease and consequently wash or clean compulsively. Others obsess about having blasphemous or undesirable thoughts. Often people perform rituals involving counting, arranging, or touching things according to specific rules.

OCD used to be considered a rare and bizarre condition. It is now known that it’s tragically common, affecting millions of people. Fortunately, recent advances in the medical and psychological understanding of OCD have led to very successful treatments for it, usually a two-prong approach involving specific medications and highly specialized behavior therapy.

Like clinical depression,

• OCD is best thought of as a treatable illness, a metabolic disorder of brain chemistry, not as a weakness or a personality defect.

• You are urged to seek professional help if this condition is disrupting your life.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on friendlysuggestions.com.


Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus and Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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