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Understanding The Compulsion Of Living With OCD
Living with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel you are compelled to perform.
So often we hear people saying “ I am soooooooo OCD” and laugh it off.
Well, if you have really dealt with OCD, you will know that it is no laughing matter.
We don’t all have a “little OCD” – besides, why would you even want it?
It’s normal to go back and double-check that the iron is unplugged, the lights turned off, or your car is locked. What happens when you have a certain “ritual” that you obsess about, no matter what you do you can’t seem to shake it?
I have never been clinically diagnosed with OCD, neither have I ever spoken to a doctor about my routine rituals. I am certain that I have it. It is clear and obvious and I do not need a label stamped on my head to know it.
Growing up, I always engaged in rituals of patterns. I always had to find a pattern for everything.
Looking for similarities between everything but not wanting anyone to notice while I was doing it.
I would cross and uncross my toes inside my shoes and even number of times. Did the same when I would yawn without opening my mouth letting the air out of my ears. My right arm would itch, I would scratch it. Then scratch the same amount of times on the left too.
Then I began to sort everything by colour. The daily rituals were not always the same throughout the years. Sometimes it was sorting, other times patterns, then counting, arranging and re-arranging……it was always something.
The need to complete one compulsion was simply replaced by another.
Categories Of OCD
I cannot figure out what triggered the counting, why it began, how it began.
All I can tell you is that it became more prevalent as the years went by.
Most people who are living with OCD fall into one of five categories:
Doubters and Sinners
Counters and Arrangers
A counter and arranger. Yup! That’s me. Everything must line up “just right”, and in even numbers. Odd numbers are a complete no-no.
I count my steps when walking, or climbing stairs. If I end on an odd number, I take an extra step to even it out.
Count tiles on the ceiling, cars driving past, pages printed out, how many times I brush my hair, and so on and so forth. And if you were wondering – I even chew my food in even numbers.
I re-arrange numbers on license plates to try to find patterns between the numbers.
My clothes are arranged and sorted from lightest to darkest, by color and shade.
'I have CDO. It is like OCD but all the letters are in alphabetical order AS THEY SHOULD BE'Click To Tweet
Living With OCD
There is no substantial reason for counting or arranging, I just do it. It is a part of me and that’s it. I know it sounds extremely illogical, but it is what it is; a constant never ending ritual throughout my day.
I hated the fact that at times it would grab me when I was vulnerable or down.
As a consequence, I learned to count in a way that it did not interfere in my doing other things. Many times, I have caught myself counting while watching TV, reading, cleaning, driving, eating, typing.
It is strange because you know you are constantly doing it, yet when you “catch” yourself counting, you have the urge to stop but you just cant. You are doing something, end on an even number, focus on something else, only to begin counting again.
Still, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
8, 20, 65, 266 – Can you figure out the pattern here?
OCD exists on a spectrum. Mine is manageable. I function just fine, but there are people living with OCD who can’t even leave their homes.
My counting OCD does not obstruct me from doing anything that I would do on a day-to-day basis. Unless you are one of the three people I ever discussed this with, you likely would never know that I was a counter or arranger. You would describe me as being an “organizer extraordinaire”.
I hate to talk about OCD out of fear of not being understood, or worse – being made fun of. The good thing is, if you met me, you would never know any of this. It is the disorder I am the best at hiding.
'Exulansis: A tendency to give up talking about an experience because people are unable to relate'Click To Tweet
I do not want to see a doctor. I am quite happy telling myself: “OK OCD, you can keep going in my head – I will only respond by ignoring you.”
So is this anxiety-based? Neurologically based? Or both?
Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Since my mother passed away in 2001, I have suffered from a lot of anxiety.
Certain that the fact that I never dealt with the grief of her death caused my anxiety. I began counting. In 2004 I became a non-stop counter. Over the years, my anxiety levels have risen and dropped dramatically from year to year.
There Are Triggers That Makes Things Worse
In 2012, I went through almost an entire year without feeling any anxiety. I was me, I was happy. Counted less frequently. At times a whole day or even two would go by without counting!
The feeling of being “free” from counting was bizarre as well as unnatural. After all, I had been counting for ever, but boy, did I feel relieved.
In 2013, within six months of each other, two people I knew, around the same age as me passed away suddenly, in the same manner. One I had known for only a year, the other I had known for sixteen years.
The overwhelming shock of the passing of my longtime friend manifested itself as disbelief, numbness, denial, along with terrible pain. There were so many things I wish I would have said. Once that chance is gone, you can never get it back.
My counting began again. At least this time I knew why. A few months later my counting slowed itself down.
Fast forward from 2018 and all the way to today, February 2020 and my counting has gone into overdrive, It is starting to stress me out because it constantly breaks my concentration.
Being a firm believer that the mind can be trained to learn anything, I am exploring different ways to make my mind learn to stop counting involuntarily .
How To Deal With Your OCD
I have begun what I call a ‘pre-sleep meditation’. In bed before falling asleep, clear my head and mind, think of nothing. BLISS. Being there, existing in that moment. Allowing myself to simply be. No analysing, judging, or thinking. Just existing in that moment.
I know it will take a great deal of both time and effort. Change never happens overnight, just like developing OCD and anxiety did not happen overnight.
You need to have a really strong determination to fight bad habits and fears. Just like getting over fears or phobias.
When things get stressful, my OCD takes full stage. It’s a security blanket — the mental equivalent of going into fetal position. My compulsions are always the same, even when the world is not.
Start small. Heal small. I cannot give advice on how to deal with OCD. Everyone experiences it in a different way, through different phases, and in various spectrums. I can only share what I do to help my situation. I am not a doctor.
Helpful Ways To Manage Compulsions and Lower Anxiety When Living With OCD
- get to know your OCD better
- identify the triggers that bring on your obsessions and compulsions
- keep track of your triggers and compulsions
- resist the urge – this one will not be easy, it has to be a conscious and daily habit
- manage stress by practicing relaxation techniques
- breathing exercises to lower anxiety
- talk to supportive family and friends
- move your body frequently—don’t sit for more than an hour at a time
- learn to recognize and limit obsessive and compulsive rituals
- write down your worries in a list or journal form
- get enough sleep!
Do you suffer from anxiety, stress, depression? Or know someone who does?
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Share your feedback, thoughts and experiences with me in the comments section below.
I would love to hear how you deal with living with OCD, or helping someone who has to.
I do the exact same things you described. Thank you for writing this as it helped me see I’m not alone. I, too, have OCD and am in the Counter and Arranger Category. Read about Arithmomania. I just heard of it last night, but it is exactly what I do. It really blew my mind. Again, thank you so much for writing this article and I wish you well!!
Mine isn’t counting its order. Everything must be in a certain order. I have so much trouble when I go shopping so I normally only go one or two times a year, all the ready of my shopping is done online.
Wow! I never was really aware of the lifestyle that comes with OCD. and unfortunately people use OCD so loosely now that you never really think of looking into it
I have Pure O OCD. It can be really hard to deal with on a daily basis. I agree that talking to someone can really help.
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Thank you for sharing. It makes a big difference to hear real stories from real people. My son has several mental health diagnoses. I have chosen not to get the formal diagnoses thus far. I LOVE that you do everything in even numbers including eating and chewing. This made my day! We have quite a few similarities. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I always get looks or told that I am weird that I only eat items in even numbers. I only eat items in even numbers. I prefer to organize things in even numbers. If something is an odd number, I can make it okay by doing two sets because then the total is even. I also have my clothes arranged by color as well as type (e.g. shirts by sleeveless, short sleeve, long sleeve) within the color and everyday clothing is separated from dressy clothing.
As far as I can tell, most of my OCD tendencies are related to anxiety and stress on top of my personality. For the most part, I accept it all as being a part of who I am and try to ignore/laugh off things people say. I cope with it by laughing and joking that I am weird and have OCD—for me, it seems better for me to laugh about it before they laugh at me.
HI Kelly!!!! So glad to read this. We do have a lot of similarities and even though I am used to people thinking it is “weird” I still find that I get sad when people don’t get it. I am also happy to hear from someone who can relate to exactly what I have written. There are many people out there who feel misunderstood or have no one to talk to, so awareness is very important to me. I love that you can see a positive side to all of it and take it as part of being you. That is what I had to do, although I learned the hard way. We are not weird. No one is weird. We are all unique and different which is fantastic. How boring life would be if we were all the same in terms of looks and personality traits. Thank you so much for sharing a part of your story. Have a wonderful day and week. xoxoxo 🙂 S.
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Thank you for being candid about your experience. I hear people jokingly claim OCD all the time but it is not something to take lightheartedly. I’m glad you are able to have some days in which it does not interfere as much.
Thank you for sharing your story. I have never thought of myself as being OCD, however, the counting thing is something I definitely do. I always line my clothing up in colours and types, and always alphabetize my music collection. I always put this down to being anal, but perhaps it is a bit of OCD. Something to keep in mind as I notice other things as well. Thank you!
I have never heard of OCD before but you bring this up. This is something that we need to aware of. Thanks for sharing!
This is pretty serious and harms mental health .I do check keys and gas once before leaving home.But not this bad. I do have a problem with loop thoughts and worry but gardening,writing and exercising with total mindfulness helps me break the looping of thoughts .
Maybe writing will help heal you.But if this was triggered after a friends demise it’s a sign of PTSD.That’s not good if you are a mommy.
Get help to heal and share your stories with us. We are rooting for you. Take care.It’s okay .Everything will be fine
Oh wow! I know I am OCD. Everything has to be in its place. My closet is arranged by sleeve length. It use to be by color. I am married to an ovd washer. Dishes must ne clean. What a wild read! I just joke it off but it truly is anxiety related.
I have it too. I’m a counter and arranger. It drives me nuts.
I does annoy me when people say they have OCD and make a joke of it, as it is such a serious and controlling thing.
OOOOOO so interesting to see what it’s like to actually have OCD. I always joke about having it because I can get obsessive about cleaning and organizing… but it’s definitely not the real deal
I have a very mild case of OCD and this post really spoke to me. It drives me crazy and I have been working to calm some of these ways. Thanks for this!
Thank you for sharing your personal story with us. It’s always a good reminder to watch what I say and not exaggerate the truth when I make comments.
As a teacher of children with special needs, this really speaks to me. I love it. Thank you for sharing.
I think, I’m borderline OCD. Love the way you wrote the post – lucid and frank. Great job.
After reading your post, I realized that having OCD or none, we should always open our hearts to understand one another, coz we never know what others are going through. Even some have this condition, people who doesn’t have can’t even do what you guys CAN, and that’s amazing!
Huge respect, and kudos for very honest post!
I love your honesty in this post. It’s so refreshing to see someone so transparent with their readers!
This article was so profound and insightful to read! OCD is serious and I love how to spoke of it in such a unique way! Thank you for this information! I will refer to it often! xoxo
Thank you so much Candice. I appreciate your feedback. It is nice to be able to finally talk about it and not feel embarrassed or ashamed of it. Sadly, many people suffer in silence and I am hoping to bring awareness to OCD and other unseen illnesses.
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I admire you discussing this issue, we all need to talk about mental health issues. I too suffer, OCD tendencies, and anxiety. My son also suffers, I always wonder if it’s because of me 🙁 it’s always encouraging to share with others and no I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing and writing this post 🙂
Hi Robyn, thank you for reading, and more importantly for sharing. I don’t think your son is going through it because of you. Of course, I am no doctor so I cannot say for certain but I believe that some of us just have anxiety, which may lead to OCD tendencies or full on OCD. Do you talk to your son about it? I guess depending on his age, you can have certain conversations with him. There are so many stigmas attached to unseen illnesses which make it hard to talk about. You are not alone. Your son is not alone. There are many of us out there and we need to bring more awareness to mental health. I was hesitant to share my story at first. Afraid of judgement, but how would I help, inspire, motivate or encourage another person by remaining silent? This is why I write. I wish you strength and all the best. Hugs, Sheri
I have suffered with OCD all my life. Excessive list making, checking if everything is off twice and counting steps twice (2 is my magic number lol) are just some examples. I totally understand what you have dealt and keep dealing with daily. It’s a difficult road, to say the least!
I had a serious case as a child and still have some episodes now. I had a thing where everything has to be perfectly aligned…drove me nuts seeing crooked paintings and things out of place.
I’ve always found it icky when people jokingly say they have OCD to explain a meticulous nature… Not knowing or understanding what people with OCD actually go through.
Thanks so much for this… It’s brave! 🙂
Thank you Audrey. A lot of people feel the way you do, but it is nice when they come back and say they now have a better understanding of what OCD is and how people are deeply affected by it. Thank you for sharing – and for your honesty. 🙂
Interesting read as I’ve never thought on OCD on the scale of it’s categories mentioned above. I have a little bout of OCD of hoarding paper. Somehow I attributed to emotionally attaching myself to paper, but not that I think of it I truly need to work on this.
I believe every single one of us have a bit of OCD within our DNA. It’s just life. And we’re only humans. Some have it worse and some makes no big deal out of it but please believe oh we all got it!!
I think your OCD has its positives and negatives. I do urge you to see a professional about it but as you know, you should do it on your terms. Sending lots of love your way!
Thank you Chrystal, have a great day 🙂
Way to be strong enough to talk about this! This is a hard thing to express. My girlfriend of three years suffers from OCD, and we just found out. She’s been dealing with it horribly, and now she’s getting the help she needs. I’m happy to see some awareness on this! You two should correspond together and create an awareness post we can share on both sites!
Hi Brittany, I was a bit hesitant at first about sharing because I was very unsure about being vulnerable to so many people, however the feedback has been amazing, people are supportive and I am happy to bring awareness to this issue. I am glad your girlfriend is getting help. Thank you for your encouraging words. I would LOVE to correspond with your girlfriend to create an awareness post. Would you pass on my information to her? She can contact me using any of the buttons on my website, or better yet, via email at email@example.com 🙂 Thanks for reading and sharing.
I have had a couple of friends in my life that had OCD. One had a more subtle case of it. However my other friend, she had it pretty severely. She was one of those who had to check things over and over in a certain order. I no longer see either one of them anymore, since I moved away from that city several years ago.
Some ppl laugh idd ocd and it’s so rediclious it very real I think I have a few traits but I’ve never been diagnosed
This was so insightful! I did not know there were categories of OCD. Thank you for sharing!
There are so many different types of OCD, and not many people are aware of that. They all think it’s thinks like excessive cleaning. Your post was a great read, and it’s things like this that will definitely help being to light all the different types of OCD that are around
Thank you so much for the positive feedback. My goal is to bring awareness to this issue from a different perspective. 🙂
I’ve heard about OCD but never really knew what is it about. Now you bring this up, making me think this is something that we need to aware of.
There definitely needs to be more awareness brought towards OCD, as well as other “unseen” illnesses. You are so right Rose! Thanks for reading.
Thank you for sharing. I often wonder if I have OCD because I have to do repetitive things, but seems like a minor case for me. Thanks for sharing!
I suffer from bi-polar disorder and have been successfully treating it with medication and therapy. Despite doing as well as I have my entire life there is a piece of my that is always on guard…wondering if a down day is the beginning of something much more significant. I count when I drink water. Every time. I can’t stop it. But so far it is just water. Small but odd. Thank you for this post.
Hi Anna, I am glad that you are able to treat it as well as share your story. I know the feeling of “wondering if a down day is the beginning of something much more significant”, the power of the mind right? Thank you for your positivity and feedback. Wishing you all the best. 🙂
Thank you for opening up and sharing. I agree with Iman that we all have a degree of OCD, but not everyone is willing to accept or deal with it.
Wow this is interesting. i think i have this in a mild level though. since in the philippines we dont have anything checked at all. i constantly count my money all the time like every hour wherever i may be, everything should go as planned and in line. if something goes wrong i really get mad even for the tiniest reason. It seems unreasonable for people and they think im oversensitive but if things go out of line for me its already considered wrong. i have been struggling to change my ways since i was in high school. I dont say im OCD since i dont know to what degree i am in.
I can relate to you in the sense that in Africa lots of people do not get checked for disease which are unseen. So far as it cannot be seen, and is not causing harm to other people it is swept under the rug. I think you just need to take it a day at a time. You know what triggers you and sometimes there are signs that you are about to get mad, like heartbeat going faster, shaking, nervousness, anxiety etc, so if you have a way to calm yourself down before you reach the actual point of being angry, that could really help you. Thank you for sharing.
Definitely a hand washer here, but after 3 years fighting intestinal parasites and a decade correcting the aftermath, I’m not sure it is irrational to wash ones hands before touching food, one’s face, or washing anything that will touch food or one’s face.
I hope you are doing better now Indigo. Did you write a post about this? I would love to read it.
I’ve always felt like I had a mild case of OCD. I would fall into the “Checkers”” category. But, I swear this started to develop as my intellect diminished. As of late, I’ve been feeling like “my smarts” are slowly wearing down. But as this process ensues, I realized that I am triple checking everything I am doing. Stove Off. Light Off. Packed my lunch. etc.
Thanks for this article!
I love that you are sharing this with others. It’s a great way to make people aware of OCD and to give them a glimpse of what it’s like to personally have OCD.
The mind is a powerful tool, body as well! to mentally try to overcome something or at least make it bearable takes a strong will. I have a rare disease that almost took my life in 2012… there is No cure for it, but I can maintain it… the reason I started blogging was to make others aware of Diseases and how to stay positive throughout recovery and still live a happy life…etc…
Stay strong and fight on!
Hi Eloise, I really admire your courage to overcome your struggles while helping others. Sharing and allowing others insight into your life, even if it helps only one other person is worth it. Your positive attitude toward the disease is a big part of it. Keep on fighting. I wish you all the best.
Wow, this article really made me think about a person that I know, because I never really knew anything about the Ins and Outs of OCD…. things make so much more sense now. Thanks for that!
You are welcome Shawn. This is exactly why I love writing. 🙂
I have to thank your for raising awareness of OCD and I have some questions as my little sister appears to be showing some of these traits. She has William’s syndrome and we suspect she has autism and OCD too. She will only eat certain foods, will dislike certain textures and feel uncomfortable if colours are not to her liking. She will arrange colours and DVDs in order and feel panicked if they are not in order. Doctor’s have said it is linked to the syndrome but I myself have done a lot of research and the symptoms she is having do not connect to her syndrome. What are your thoughts?
Hi Ana, thank you for sharing your story with me. It sounds to me like she has OCD in several categories. I am not trained to give a medical opinion on this so I can only tell you what I think as a person who is a counter. I believe she is showing signs of OCD and anxiety when things are not in order. I have read a little bit about Williams Syndrome which sound completely different to what I am reading here. Have you sought out another doctor for a different opinion? I think it might be beneficial for her to at least have a second or even third opinion as many people have been misdiagnosed and therefore do not receive the proper treatment to help them. Can I ask how old she is? I really pray she gets the help she needs and can beat this. Sending you lots of love and hugs. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a more private conversation. xoxox S.
My manager suffered OCD as an actual medical condition. It was awful gorgeous her and she was on constant medication. It bothers me when people laugh “I’m a bit OCD”. They have no idea.
You are right Tori, it sounds like something easy to laugh about but it isn’t. Thank you for reading and sharing.
Thanks for shedding light on this. someone I know suffers from it so I’ve done a bit of reading. I do think I have a little of it. I have been a checker, for sure. I’m not exactly a hoarder, although my husband would say yes. I read a book by a doctor with it who thought it was neurological.
Hi Carol, yes a lot of books and articles are out there to read, most doctors have the same view points, but when it comes to medication, their opinions vary, which is why I have abstained from seeing a doctor about this.
I had heard of OCD before but didn’t know there are different categories. At points of high stress, I arrange shirts by colors in the order of the spectrum of light but have not called myself OCD out of respect for others who deal with it on a daily basis. The way you’re going about it (starting small) is the way to go, I wish you the best in overcoming this challenge.
Thank you for your kind comments Diana. I am taking day by day. 🙂
Interesting article. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science, so this interests me. Why people do what they do… stress and other relate illnesses can definitely cause OCD. I do have to ask – what is sinners and doubters? I have never heard of that being associated with OCD before. Please enlighten me! Thank you! 🙂
Hi, The category Sinners and Doubters is defined as follows:
These people have an irrational fear that they will cause something terrible to happen to themselves or others if they do something wrong. They might be concerned that God will punish them for their actions or try to replace what them deem to be bad words with good ones.
Does the definition help a little? I know the category title may sound odd or weird, but it is very real. 🙂
I don’t suffer nor does anyone i really know, as far as I can tell, im sure were all depressed from time to time, I wrote a blog called addicted to losing which talks about our struggle as a band afer constant rejection which might be useful. over all i found this to be a pretty interesting read my friends make fun of me for being a neat freak!
I have never heard of OCD before and can neither conclude that I have it, after reading this article. But I still think it would be annoying and sometimes embarrassing to do repetitively unwanted tasks.
I sometimes believe I have some sort of OCD but I try not to think about it because I agree with Jeremy I think it’s offensive to people who actually have it. It’s crazy how our minds work sometimes, isn’t it?
Yes Roberta, our brains are fickle friends that love to play games with us.
I also suffer from OCD but have never heard of those classifications. I am going to look more into them. I have been put on several medications without any decrease in symptoms. It seems my anxiety gets worse as I get older. Great topic.
I am sorry to hear that Melissa. I have inserted a link about the categories into the post, so you and other can have a look and read more about it. You may want to seek out another doctor or second opinion regarding your symptoms not getting better. Stay strong, and I wish you success for the future. xoxox S.
I have always been very organized person and I think I will always be. Sometimes people tell me that I should relax and let things be how they are. It was very interesting post to me since I have never read about OCD. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Enni, thank you for your kind words. There is a lot to read on OCD written by professionals in case you want to know more about from a clinical perspective. I appreciate your feedback.
Oh yes; I have been there. My mind ran like a race horse on a cocktail of crack, PEDS and espresso LOL. Maddening stuff. Meditating daily and following my fun helped me bunches. Sitting in quiet helped me see, I am not my thoughts and feelings. So I stopped fighting them so much, and became more at peace. Doing only what’s been fun to me raised my vibe, a vibe well above the endless, crazy OCD energies lower on the energy scale. Keep on with those evening meditations, you are well on your way to releasing this 😉 Thanks for sharing, I know this will inspire a ton of folks!
WOW! Thank you for the feedback and insight Ryan! 🙂 You are right about not being your thoughts and feelings. I will through the meditation try to stop fighting them too much also. I am grateful for the motivating and encouraging words. S.
The first step into tacking action and get better is to acknowledge the disorder, which you just did. Of course, it will be a hard fight but you have to believe in yourself that you can do it. I wish you all the best and I hope you will eventually get over it 🙂
Thank you for the encouragement Joanna 🙂
I know what it’s like to live with OCD. And I also know that is not invincible. With time and a lot of effort you will be able to look back and see that you did it. You are finally free. There will be moments in the future when you will still feel it’s after effect, but you will deal with them because you’ll know you can. That’s my OCD story… 🙂
Thank you Monika. It is nice to hear back from someone who has been through it and is free of it. I appreciate you sharing. 🙂
I understand that feeling. I am constantly checking things and I have the urge to check it over and over to make sure everything is alright – like the kitchen stove – to make sure the house won’t burn down. My husband catches me doing it and he says, “Don’t worry about it. We have insurance for that.” But that doesn’t really comfort me much. I really like the idea about how to retrain your mind. Thanks for posting.
I’m right there with you. I’m a checker, counter and arranger. My husband can tell me that he’s already locked up at night, I STILL have to go through and look to make sure. #thestruggleisreal
I do say I have OCD (like many people do) and to a degree I think everyone does, but OCD does run in my family. I have very bad anxiety you could say my OCD is pulling out my hair, I pick at my eyebrows, eyelashes, hair it is something I have battled with not doing when I get anxious since I was a child. I have done a bit better over the past few months with dealing so fingers crossed I can get this under some kind of control. This is a great post getting an inside look into a person with OCD and how they view it.
Thank you for your feedback Iman. It is a struggle and a process which can only be taken a day at a time. Stay strong, you can do it.
Trichotillomania! Same here. It also runs in our family!
right now I could tell you exactly how my shirts are hanging from left to right in my closet and constantly find myself counting things. I’m organized to a ridiculous degree but have stopped saying I have OCD as i finally realized it was kind of offensive to those that really suffer with it
You may still have OCD though maybe not to an extent that other people have.