My Friend Repeats Behaviors; What Disorder is He Suffering From?

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Reader’s Question

A friend of mine is suffering from a problem of repetition of behaviors, like, if he wants to pick something up, he picks it up, and puts it down again before he finally picks it up. Likewise if he opens a door — he opens, closes and finally opens to enter the room. What disorder is he suffering from?

Psychologist’s Reply

Although I cannot accurately diagnosis someone based on such limited information, from what you describe it is possible that your friend may be experiencing symptoms that are consistent with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by:

  1. obsessions, which are defined as recurrent unwanted, intrusive thoughts or ideas;
  2. compulsions, which are defined as repetitive behaviors one feels driven to carry out; or
  3. a combination of both obsessions and compulsions that are time-consuming and/or cause marked distress.

Effective treatment of OCD typically includes psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both psychotherapy and medication. Although what you describe is not enough to warrant a diagnosis of OCD, if your friend’s behavior is concerning for him, I encourage you to encourage your friend to speak with a licensed mental health professional who can assess his symptoms further and make appropriate treatment recommendations. If you are in North America, the American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator might be a good place to start.

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