What Is Symmetry OCD?

When a person likes to have their environment orderly, others sometimes describe them as being or having "OCD." However, most tidy people do not have true obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). True OCD is a mental health disorder that causes people to have obsessive thoughts and perform compulsive actions to distract themselves or help them combat their fears.

OCD can be incredibly disruptive to everyday life unless treatment is sought. There are a few different types of OCD, including:

  • Hoarding

  • Mental contamination

  • Checking

Someone with symmetry OCD can become fixated on the alignment and position of objects in their environment.

Learn more about symmetry OCD, how it is diagnosed, and treatments that can help.

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Symptoms of symmetry OCD

People with symmetry OCD have a fear of the disorder and become severely distressed at any lack of symmetry in their surroundings. They feel uncomfortable if their environment doesn't look or feel just right, and they may spend hours aligning objects to face the same way or make their surroundings feel neat.

This can make everyday life difficult, as it is not always possible to have control over our environment. People with symmetry OCD may feel incredibly uncomfortable seeing objects out of place or misaligned when out in public. They may avoid having guests over to prevent their orderly surroundings from getting disrupted.

Some people with symmetry OCD also believe that something bad will happen to them or their loved ones if objects in their surroundings aren't evenly arranged or in the right place.

What is the difference between symmetry OCD and orderliness?

Many people without OCD enjoy having their surroundings tidy and their belongings put away or stacked neatly, and they may even feel some anxiety if their surroundings are cluttered and uneven.

People with symmetry OCD, however, experience extreme distress from a lack of symmetry or when objects are not in their rightful place. They may not be able to focus on anything else until everything is adjusted to their liking. This can harm their relationships and quality of life.

Some people with symmetry OCD may also have a compulsion to rewrite words or sentences until there are no imperfections on the page, or they may obsessively trace the edges of geometrical shapes with their eyes.

How is symmetry OCD diagnosed?

Like other forms of OCD, symmetry OCD can be diagnosed by a doctor or therapist after learning more about your symptoms and ruling out other possibilities. Your doctor may first conduct a physical exam, which may include blood and urine tests, to look for other health conditions that could be causing your symptoms. They may also ask you questions about your symptoms and how they impact your life.

From there, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for more evaluations and treatment options. Getting an OCD diagnosis can be difficult, as the symptoms are similar to other mental health disorders. Some people with OCD have at least one other mental health condition.

If you believe you may have OCD of any kind or another mental health disorder, a helpful first step is to see your primary care physician.

Treatment for symmetry OCD

Treatment for symmetry OCD is the same as for generalized OCD, and it can involve one or more of the following:

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, can be effective in treating OCD.

CBT involves a counselor or therapist asking you questions about your symptoms and thought processes to help you better understand their source and creating coping strategies to redirect your thoughts and compulsions.

It may also involve exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, which allows you to face your fears or obsessive thoughts gradually and in a safe environment to eventually overcome them.

It can take some time to feel the effects of psychotherapy, but it can have a lasting impact on symptoms of OCD.

Medication

Another treatment option for OCD is medication. It is typically recommended to start with an antidepressant to help control some of the obsessive thinking involved with OCD. Typical medications are fluoxetine and sertraline.

Your doctor may start you on a small dose and gradually work up to a stronger one, so it can take several tries to find the right dosage and medication for you.

Support groups

It's easy for people with OCD to feel alone with their condition, especially if they don't know anyone else who experiences their surroundings the same way.

Your doctor or therapist may be able to refer you to an OCD support group so that you can talk to others who have OCD about your experiences and strategies for dealing with your symptoms. It can be helpful to connect with others who know exactly what you are going through, and it can make you feel less alone.

If there aren't any OCD support groups in your area, you may be able to find a virtual OCD support group to connect with others across the globe.

The lowdown

If you simply like having order in your house, but a lack of symmetry doesn't cause you extreme stress, you are probably just a highly organized person.

If, on the other hand, a lack of control of your surroundings causes major distress, it may be helpful to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and potential treatment options. OCD can create many hardships, but people who seek treatment can begin to recover and feel more like themselves.

Have you considered clinical trials for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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