My experience with OCD
I suffered from what I consider to be significant levels of OCD as a child, with the peak ages being from about 10 years old to 15. At the time I had no idea what was wrong with me and just assumed I was a bit weird (I was smarter than the average kid at school, not too say I was a genius though) and very superstitious. OCD was a major part of life in my childhood and it is chilling to think I was not aware I had a mental illness. It only dawned on me recently that I had OCD after visiting a therapist with my wife for an hour for a completely unrelated reason and talking about some factors influencing my childhood, and then reading the OCD section of the book Dancing With Fear.
My behavior as a child was extremely ritualistic. I would eat lunch at the exact same minute every single day. I would go to sleep at the exact same time (to the minute and on some nights to the second). Activities like showering and teeth brushing and going to the washroom became heavily ritualized with counting, etc. I also said prayers in my head in a very specific routine anywhere from once a day as I got a bit older, to probably several times an hour during my peak ages. It was a coping mechanism and I felt that by saying the prayers bad things might not happen to me. I am Jewish and I think that aspects of the religion might have caused this. I also felt guilt for not observing the religion and felt the need to apologize to God many times a day, as I was worried something bad would happen. I am 27 years old and up until a few years ago I felt that at some point in my life I would need to become more religious, but this feeling has decreased now.
My family saw some signs of my OCD like eating lunch at the same time every day and some rituals like showering at the same time. But it did not occur to them I had OCD, they just thought I needed routine and was uptight. My brother ridiculed my behavior which made me feel like I was not normal. To someone who does not have OCD, they do not realize these behaviors are not easily controlled. They are just something you have to do.
In retrospect I wish they would have forced to see a mental health professional as it would have made my childhood much easier. Fortunately as I grew older into my teenage years and perhaps more confident I grew out of my OCD.
But I still feel like I have some OCD related thoughts. I have an obsession in my head with perfection and order. My apartment is small and gets cluttered and it drives me crazy at times. But my perfection obsession goes beyond myself as an individual and to the world as a whole. I often think/worry about global warming, overpopulation and traffic. If there are not many trees on a street that bothers me and I think about it, since having more trees on a street is a desired state.
I am writing this post partially as a form of therapy, but also I am wondering how OCD might manifest itself in people as they get older. I do not see myself ever performing compulsions again to a serious level, but will probably keep them very minor for the rest of my life. I am also wondering what constitutes normal thoughts and what are not normal things to worry about. These thoughts I have don't impact my life to any level really, but still, they are there in my head.
I also noticed that my father has OCD. He has some nervous twitches and talk to himself...so it is now dawning on me I developed it both out of genetics and I think partially out of living in a stressful house.