Superstition or OCD?

Something I was pondering on as I wrote a short story about superstition and spoke to a friend who believes she suffers from OCD.

I wonder if we have just given superstition a new name. I am well aware of the differences between superstition and OCD in the clinical sense but recently I was talking to a friend who insisted that she had recently discovered she had OCD and was seeking treatment. I was instantly concerned. She went on to explain that she would check her front door was locked by pulling on it an odd number of times, she refused to book any appointments for any even-numbered dates, she had thrown out all of her green clothes and any clothes she had worn when something bad had happened in her life, tapped her wrist three times before she made a decision and would always touch wood when she talked about illnesses.

Suddenly I found myself questioning her self diagnosis of OCD, then I questioned my labelling of what she did as superstitious. I too like odd numbers and touch wood regularly so as not to tempt fate but I don’t consider that to be OCD, just good old fashioned superstition.

I understand there are extremes that will be labelled and some people really do need some assistance in getting through these issues but where does superstition end and an illness begin? The thought process behind both are similar, both offer a false idea of safety if we do a particular action or process, or bad luck if we don’t.

What do you think? Am I out of order questioning this or is there an actual point when things do turn from one to the other.



4 thoughts on “Superstition or OCD?

  1. I don’t class myself as superstitious at all. All the normal superstitions don’t affect me in the slightest but I do have little OCD quirks. I wash my hands all the time. I triple check things and when I set my alarm I have to turn it on then off then on again. I don’t know why I do it. I just do. I never really thought if it was anything to superstition but you make good points.

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  2. It is ingrained ritual. Superstitions you learn as a child stay with you. There are certain things I avoid as an adult when there is no logical reason for doing so. For example, I won’t ever cut my nails on a Friday or Sunday (but have no idea what that is about, and even an extensive google search doesn’t bring any old superstitions up). I kiss the back of my hand if I see a lone magpie, I won’t stir widdershins when I am cooking…. The list goes on and on, but I don’t even question it usually and don’t see myself as a particularly superstitious person.

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