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Doctors and OCD

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by youngnflyy, Mar 2, 2007.

  1. youngnflyy

    youngnflyy Member 5+ Year Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Does anyone else think that there is a connection between obsessive compulsive disorder, and those interested in becoming doctors? I'd always been told that people who go into medicine often seem to have mild obsessive compulsive personalities. I hadn't really put much stock into it, until I saw it mentioned in a book I was recently reading, and then actually stopped and realized that most people I know who are pre-med do seem to be slightly OCD at times. What do you guys think? Anyone here willing to admit their tendencies?
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  3. spicedmanna

    spicedmanna Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    I've heard that, too. I think it's largely urban legend, however. I think medicine attracts people who are more type A-oriented and who revel in detailed work. A lot of medicine lies in noticing what others fail to see. Also, striving for perfection is something many people who consider medicine are into. If that makes them mildly "OCD", then, yes.
  4. DoctaJay

    DoctaJay bone breaker Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    San Diego
    I think everyone has a hint of OCD. Whether it be as the practice medicine or as they meticulously clean a house.
  5. QuantumMechanic

    QuantumMechanic Avatar=One of the Greats 5+ Year Member

    Nov 23, 2005
    Hilbert Space
    OCD is characterized my recurrent and impulsive thoughts which are suppressed by ritualistic acts that are done in attempts to remove the negativity. I really doubt that many premeds suffer from OCD. We may be meticulous and plan things out well, but that has nothing to do with the disorder. The right term would be anal.
  6. H_Caulfield

    H_Caulfield Junior Member 5+ Year Member

    Feb 11, 2006
    Yes... it's definitely annoying the way there's such widespread misconception about what OCD is. Excessive washing or cleaning is only an occasional symptom, and even then it has absolutely nothing to do with anything being clean.

    OCD is about repetitive actions; it's about numbers. I have a hint of it. Example: when I open the kitchen drawer to get a knife, if I've had a particularly stressful day, I have to close the drawer, open it, put the knife back, close it again, open it, take out a fork, close it, put the fork back upside-down, and finally then take out the knife I want. While I close the door I have to blink exactly 3 times.

    People with true obsessive compulsive disorder have these sorts of activities claiming about 75% of their time and are unable to accomplish anything as a result.
  7. JennyB

    JennyB 5+ Year Member

    Oct 27, 2006
    you beat me to it, QM and Caulfield!
  8. gsmithers68

    gsmithers68 2+ Year Member

    Nov 29, 2006
    I think part of being a doctor is definitely being obsessive and compulsive about your work. If you aren't then complications and mistakes could happen, you have to stay on top of your game. OCD is a disorder and shouldn't be confused with just having a personality trait common to people who are doctors.
  9. Jccripe

    Jccripe 2+ Year Member

    Sep 12, 2006
    I agree with QuantomMechanic as he so eloquently put; most of us are very anal.
  10. KaraKiz

    KaraKiz I'm Ron Burgundy? 7+ Year Member

    Nov 8, 2006
    i am not OCD by clinical definition, but I am pretty meticulous, organized, and detail oriented. you have to be ambitious and anal to go through even just the admissions process and studying for the MCAT. its self-selecting. Someone who is disorganized with the attention span of a fruit fly who cant remember if he went to wendy's twice yesterday (my bf) would probably not make it far in the process, even if he tried. He can't sit still long enough to pay attention in lecture, let alone sit for an 8 1/2 hour exam.

    You have to be anal to be a doctor. You are handling people's health - its an important profession. There is not a lot of room for error. And error will cost you a lot of $$$.
  11. medgirl20

    medgirl20 Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    I'd say it's more anankastic personality disorder traits than OCD that's seen amongst med students doctors.
    But everyone has traits from different personality disorders not necessarily a bad thing.
  12. gary5

    gary5 Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Sep 24, 2003
    You have to have OCD to put yourself through the torture of med school and residency. Normal people enjoy their lives instead.
    biogirl236 likes this.
  13. Nomemory

    Nomemory Member 7+ Year Member

    Dec 14, 2001
  14. AmoryBlaine

    AmoryBlaine the last tycoon 7+ Year Member

    May 1, 2006
    "OCD" is like ADD when it comes to pre-meds and medical students. A few probably actually have it, many think they do based on a few personality quirks.

    Someone who truly had a whopping case of OCD with all the bizarre repetitive behaviors would have an extraordinarily difficult time in med school. Wanting your room to be clean does not make you OCD.

    It really is all about Type A though. Med school is...

    50% Type A
    45% Type A who try to say they're not
    5% Type B
  15. Dr OCD

    Dr OCD Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    Apr 5, 2005
    see sdn id :)
  16. trevagandalf

    trevagandalf 7+ Year Member

    Dec 13, 2006
    I check my email every hour... i think that classifies me as OCD?
  17. Green Pirate

    Green Pirate Neurotic Neuro Enthusiast 5+ Year Member

    Nov 13, 2006
    dude I check my email several times every hour, even when I'm not expecting something. I don't think that makes us OCD though...for me, it's just a way to avoid returning to my textbooks
  18. person


    Feb 10, 2007
    let me make it clear that there's a huge difference between wanting to succeed and the overwhelming drive to carry out compulsions that you realize to be ridiculous but can't seem to resist. i take medication for it, it helps tremendously and, while my success-driven personality may be related to my other problems, i more often associate them with admittedly irrational thoughts than with the understandable quest for achievement.
  19. gujuDoc

    gujuDoc 10+ Year Member

    Feb 21, 2004
    I agree with this post, but would like to add on to that as well. The other part of it is that the intense competition and stressful nature of the med school application process, med school itself, and residency sort of makes people that way even if they weren't before.
  20. gujuDoc

    gujuDoc 10+ Year Member

    Feb 21, 2004
    haha yeah you make a good point that I didn't think about. But yah you are probably right about it more being a matter of being anal then ocd.
  21. DoctorMom78

    DoctorMom78 Sky Glory 2+ Year Member

    Sep 28, 2006
    Speedwell, TN
    LOL! I totally am a bit OCD. Not to the point that it is disabling, but to the point that I have some interesting quirks. My favorite: I have to program a palindrome in the microwave or else something bad will happen.:rolleyes: :smuggrin: :laugh: That and hand-washing and things being straight, etc. I am also a total control freak, which I definitely think most pre-meds/doctors are. :smuggrin:

    Yea, I guess I am weird.;)
  22. TKaselitz350

    TKaselitz350 New Member 5+ Year Member

    Jun 28, 2006
    Hi all,

    I am an actual sufferer of OCD (clinically diagnosed). As already pointed out, obsessions can be defined as repetitive, intrusive thoughts that cause the individual a great deal of anxiety. The sufferer tries to rid these thoughts by performing one or more ritualistic actions or thoughts called compulsions.

    It is first important to note that most people experience obsessions to some extent, and compulsive behaviors are often performed to address these obsessions (i.e. someone obsessed with the receiving their MCAT scores might compulsively check AMCAS for the results:D ). It is when these thoughts and actions are irrational and/or cause the sufferer a great deal of anxiety that the obsessions and compulsions manifest themselves in OCD.

    The OP's question is an interesting one that I have often pondered myself. I have found (through my own experience and interacting with others) that sufferers of OCD also tend to be obsessive about a wide variety of things outside of their “focal obsessions”. For instance, throughout my day I obsess about the same few things to absolute exhaustion. I consider these obsessions focal to my disease/disorder. Additionally, throughout my day I behave obsessively towards other aspects of my life (whether it is my studies, athletics, eating habits, etc.) These "smaller obsessions", if you will, change daily and do not cause me the same anguish that my repetitive "focal obsessions" do. Being so particular about these areas of my life, in my opinion, is a product of my obsessive personality/OCD.

    Just by the detail-oriented nature of the occupation, there is undoubtedly a substantial percentage of doctors that have obsessive personalities, and this personality trait is certainly a requirement for the manifestation of OCD (There is a distinction between obsessive personalities and OCD, in that they are not mutually inclusive). That said, OCD is certainly not a black and white disorder; rather, it is a disorder that lies on a spectrum of severity. Where a sufferer falls on that spectrum depends not on the content of the obsessions (which is all too often assumed), but rather on the time spent obsessing, the amount of anxiety and anguish that is experienced, and the functionality of the individual. Given this information, I would say that there probably are a higher percentage of physicians with OCD when compared to the general population.

    Finally, I would just like to say that this disease totally f***ing blows and every waking hour of my life is a battle with my obsessions. OCD has caused me an unbelievable amount of pain and suffering. During my lowest points, it has really helped me to speak to others that have the disorder. I am not looking for sympathy; I am simply extending myself to any fellow OCD sufferers who need someone to talk to.

  23. DocBR

    DocBR MS-3 5+ Year Member

    Jan 20, 2007

    When I was younger I had a lot of ritual compulsions to the point that it REALLY bothered me and I felt like they were taking over my daily activities. (ever try changing the television channel on a remote while needing to push every button an equal number of times?). Anyway, when I was about 16 I made a conscious choice to stop those behaviors (and I did). Most of my rituals revolved around symmetric actions and numbers (Love the even numbers:love: )

    I would not characterize them as compulsions anymore, but there is a soothing comfort in those types of rituals.

    Now, a great measure of my stress level is how often I will unknowingly do some of those old behaviors, like if I scratch one arm I will scratch the other in the same place or will only eat orange candy in even numbers. Even so, they do not interfere with my life in the way that they used to. I would not consider them a compulsive behavior now because I do not feel an absolute need to do them, some times it is just nice to give in and engage them - if they ever got to where they bothered me again, I'd have to stop.
  24. CJM27828


    Oct 30, 2012

    Although I am displeased that there is another fellow OCD sufferer out there, I'm glad that you corrected the common misconceptions. I was recently diagnosed with OCD--just about four weeks before I arrived as a first year medical student. I noticed something was wrong when I could not turn off thoughts I was having with religious and moral themes, and I am not normally a very religious person (even though I do have many morals).

    The thoughts were disturbing and I was in emotional distress, had been drinking to sleep, and when I saw the therapist for the first time I was a three-day solid insomniac. I then began treatment with the SSRIs and gave up alcohol, and then I discovered that OCD ran in my family. I would logic that both my father and a sibling have the disorder as well, but I know it is probably not been as severe for them as mine got. I would add for those who still do not know enough about the disorder that it is an anxiety disorder, so when anxiety compounds in your life you have episodes with it.

    I'm now doing therapy once a week while in medical school with a great therapist, I'm seeing a psychiatrist, and I keep finding out what sort of Hell I've put myself through all of my life without knowing. It turns out I've had this so long without knowing that it has affected the way that I perceive the world, it has affected my ability to form new friendships, relationships, and has overall only made my life even more miserable since I found out I actually had it.

    The truth is that OCD could possibly help you in college, but if you are a real OCD sufferer medical school is going to be hard for you. I was a summa cum laude at a really great institution, but in medical school you do not have time to obsess about any particular class. You have to learn all of the information they throw at you with good time management and proficiency.

    Right now, while I'm in school I get depressed when I score below the 85th percentile on any part of our exams because I know I should be getting A's as much as I study, yet I have had rough weeks of adjustment because of all the medications I have been on for sleeping, anxiety, and depression. I finally had to stop taking Xanax and Trazadone because they were causing me to have dreams during classes, fall asleep during classes, and were impairing my memory to some degree. I also had to decrease my SSRIs because of the recurring myoclonus, hypomania, and headaches that I began to suffer as side effects from the Luvox.

    I want to go off of the medication and just do therapy, but my therapist says it is far to risky with me being in medical school right now. Otherwise, I'd be off the drugs and doing only therapy. At the same time, my psychiatrist told me that all the drugs I am taking can impair my studying abilities, so you just never know. Hopefully, I will have an M.D. mentor soon that understands what is going on and can help give the right guidance. I'd like a stellar residency, but grades can impact the highly competitive ones and it all comes down to the USMLE and the "who you know" aspect.

    Although I am happy being in medical school, and I love what I learn--I would also say that I am depressed and miserable another half of the time.

    Naturally, because I have an obsessive personality and I get bored me the last thing you want to do is give someone with OCD a lot of free time to think....I have been encouraged to get an MD/PhD and do research. Apparently, I would not be happy as a standard clinician according to all of the psychiatrists and therapists I've spoken with thus far. Right now, I'm thinking of doing a double neuro/psych pathway and getting a PhD either in neuroscience or neuropharmacology.

    There's a good book you should read, and really anyone would benefit from reading it....called the Imp of the Mind. It was written by the top man at Mass. General Hospital's OCD Clinic.
  25. sunflower18

    sunflower18 Master of Naps 5+ Year Member

    Oct 22, 2011
    Like everyone else has been saying, OCD is not simply liking things to be clean or meticulous or organized. That can be related in some circumstances, but often not. I think there might be a correlation between obsessive compulsive personality disorder and pursuing a career in medicine -- that seems much more likely than OCD, in my opinion. Despite the similar names, the two disorders are different!!

    OCD is debilitating and disturbing and troubling and distressing, in a lot of circumstances. It can cause major insecurity and interfere with education or studiousness based on the amount of time it takes to do rituals or the percentage of thoughts that are devoted to the obsessions. I don't think that those qualities are terribly conducive to medical school, although one can certainly excel in school / medicine if they control their symptoms. But I don't know why there would be a correlation there. Some people theorize that the people who develop OCD tend to be those who are very concerned with how other people view them or about doing the right thing. In that case, they might be linked -- "wanting to help people" being a common motivation for becoming a physician, and the like.

    It's an interesting question, but make sure that you are differentiating between the disorder itself, general odd quirks or neuroticisms (the book "I Am Neurotic (And So Are You)" by Lianna Kong is a good example!), and other personality disorders that cause the sufferer to be anal or organized or rigidly moral.
  26. Raid KH

    Raid KH SpEcIaL MeMbEr

    Nov 16, 2011
    I personally suffer from it.
    And U have no description for it on Exams, where I don't trust my own answers even If It's surely right.
  27. Owlie

    Owlie Future rocket surgeon

    Jan 13, 2012
    Pacific Northwest
    No, but I will say that specifying which OCD may make a difference. OCD personality disorder isn't a big deal, and I don't think it's related to the desire to become a doctor. Although, I do have a very mild OCD personality disorder.

    True OCD, in which anxiety is involved, would be detrimental as a doctor.
  28. fabriciusj89

    fabriciusj89 2+ Year Member

    Jul 5, 2012
    Another good book for OCD sufferers is Brain Lock. I don't have OCD but my SO does and the method outlined in this book changed her life (and mine! not an easy disease to date). Anyway, the method has been shown on imaging to actually alter the brain's activity without drugs. I found the book interesting to read even without having OCD- another interesting read is The Brain that Changes Itself which incidentally has a chapter on OCD.

    Also, as many have mentioned, there is a misconception about OCD when people are really just anal or controlling. In addition, many people assume that OCD only manifests itself in an outward manner (having to wash your hands so many times, or lock the door repeatedly) when the root of the problem is the obsessive thoughts that lead to those compulsions, and the compulsions do not need to be outward. For instance, my SO had compulsive 'thought tracks' that she would have to replay until her anxiety subsided.

    However, and I don't know if this is what the OP was really getting at, it is possible there is a higher incidence of OCD in science and medicine but I don't know if that has ever been studied.
  29. JJMrK

    JJMrK J to the J Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Apr 26, 2007
    OCPD and OCD are different things. Axis 2 vs axis 1 dx, and very different in terms of ability to function/live life. OCPD traits are probably pretty common among med students.
  30. xXIDaShizIXx

    xXIDaShizIXx 5+ Year Member

    Sep 18, 2011
    I know a doctor who has OCD. If all the clocks get at least 1 minute off from each other he freaks out.
  31. gasblaster

    gasblaster ASA Member 5+ Year Member

    Feb 24, 2012
    The viral picture of a psych shelf or Step 2 practice test question comes to mind. Too lazy too search for it...
  32. JJMrK

    JJMrK J to the J Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Apr 26, 2007
    Prob been the same exact scenario in the question for years.
  33. 45408

    45408 aw buddy 7+ Year Member

    Jun 13, 2004
    None of my fellow residents seem OCD. We're all pretty detail-oriented and focus on the task at hand, but not to the point of it being remotely disordered.
  34. Ashley1989

    Ashley1989 2+ Year Member

    Apr 7, 2012
    Hello, cold
    It's nice to see some people sharing their stories and experiences with OCD. I have OCD as well, I've had it my whole life, and a few years ago I went to see someone about it to get help and during the first meeting I worked up my courage to be honest about what was going on and she burst out laughing. I get it, sometimes people with OCD have slightly weird rituals, but after that I haven't really talked about it to anyone. I just don't want to be laughed at. She apologized, but she couldn't stop cracking up. It's not even like it was that funny. The OCD is getting a little worse, it gets worse when I get stressed. Who knows, with the couple of inspiring stories on this thread I might go try again, just see someone else of course. I don't know.

    For my sake, I must clarify. Not that it matters but she laughed at me because my "rituals" were funny to her, not because she didn't believe me. *sigh*
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2012
  35. werd

    werd Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Feb 13, 2004
    the thread has sort of drifted towards this point, but there is a big difference between OCD, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, and having features of OCPD. not to harp on definitions too much, but people with OCD have repetitive behaviors and thoughts that are distressing to them, people with OCPD are overly concerned with rules and organization to the point it is detrimental to their success (but aren't distressed by their behaviors, they think they are correct), and people with traits of OCPD have some features but don't meet the diagnostic criteria.

    i think a lot of med students have some traits of OCPD, and perhaps OCPD is overrepresented among med students. it's certainly beneficial to have some qualities of harping on rules, organization, and repetition in med school as long as it's not taken too far. having OCD is a different story, and in my experience (and what i was taught in psych) isn't overrepresented or helpful for fields like medicine.
  36. Ashley1989

    Ashley1989 2+ Year Member

    Apr 7, 2012
    Hello, cold
    I agree. I think maybe the OP was thinking more of a "type A" personality? Paying attention to detail, being careful, and slightly neurotic doesn't equate to OCD
  37. Smooth Operator

    Smooth Operator

    Oct 31, 2012
    I was treated for OCD in a private residential (i.e. voluntary, non-lockdown unit, you get the point) unit. I have pretty severe OCD. The staff there told me they get physicians there all of the time, and in fact during my short stay there I met a physician.
  38. myronnie

    myronnie 2+ Year Member

    Dec 15, 2008
    Ashley you should definitely search for a high-rated therapist in your area (just do a search on google). You don't have to be scared to talk to someone...whoever that was is just inappropriate and it really isn't the norm. I'm sure you'll find someone who can help you out :luck:

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