OCD is generally a troubling disorder to live with, but it can especially interfere with your academic life. School can be pretty stressful on its own, which is why OCD can be tough to deal with as a student.
You may struggle to focus in class or rewrite assignments multiple times before submission. But, most importantly, your intrusive thoughts often get in the way of your learning process, leading to missed school days or even dropping out. To reduce OCD symptoms as a student, it helps to prioritize stress management, build a support system, and improve your physical health.
Here's everything to know about studying with OCD and managing symptoms enough not to disrupt your learning process.
Intrusive thoughts caused by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can lead to compulsions, or ritualistic behaviors that the individual believes will ease their obsessive thoughts. In reality, these compulsions only provide short-term relief and worsen symptoms in the long term.
OCD can affect others regardless of age and major subject. According to a 2018 study, students with OCD were 40-60% less likely to meet their educational milestones in their mid-teenage.
The effect of OCD is somewhat similar at the college level, as college students with OCD are 28% less likely to start a program. Those who start a program are 41% less likely to finish their degree and 48% less likely to pursue post-graduate education.
Whether high-school or college students, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder consistently affects all academics and leads to underachievement. Certain classroom activities can trigger OCD symptoms, such as reading and writing assignments, which may cause the student to spend hours on an assignment due to ritualistic behaviors.
When answering questions in class, it may increase the student's anxiety due to needing reassurance about their answers. In addition, communal spaces on campus may cause distress due to shared supplies and disorganization, triggering contamination OCD or symmetry OCD.
Studying with OCD is difficult, but certain proactive approaches can help manage symptoms and prevent them from undermining your academic success.
Students with OCD may have trouble with time management due to intrusive thoughts that lead to unexpected yet ritualistic behaviors to ease stress. For example, they may pull all-nighters on an assignment as they may write it over and over again, hoping to achieve their idea of a perfect assignment.
In such cases, planning a daily, weekly, or even quarterly schedule can help keep track of time and restrict compulsions from taking up your hours. However, while scheduling may help prevent losing focus, it's best not to make your schedules too routinely, as it can worsen OCD symptoms. Instead, make sure to add a differing factor to each daily schedule to stimulate your nerves and leave no room for intrusive thoughts.
Exercise is more beneficial for OCD than you may think. Multiple studies have shown that a healthy amount of daily exercise can reduce severe OCD symptoms, especially when paired with a comprehensive treatment plan.
Although it's not a replacement for CBT or ERP, exercise can sprout new connections between neurons, promoting the release of endorphins. These feel-good neurochemicals can boost your mood and fend off stress. So, a quick hour of working out before classes begin can improve your symptoms in a surprisingly effective way.
Exercise can also reduce feelings of low esteem and depreciative thoughts, leading to increased OCD symptoms. In addition, joining a sports team or going to the gym more often can make you more social. As a result, you won't only have a distraction from your intrusive thoughts, but you'll also begin building a healthy support system.
Research shows that 73% of high-school students do not get enough sleep, which worsens OCD symptoms. In addition, various studies indicate that a lack of sleep increases the commonality and duration of obsessions the next day. But, of course, OCD causes sleep disturbances due to intrusive thoughts, so this may feel like a loophole.
However, there are a few ways to improve sleep and, in turn, your OCD symptoms. Exercising during the day, reading before bed, reducing screen time, practicing meditation, and trying natural sleep aids are a few ways to get better sleep and reduce obsessions.
Living with OCD can be especially difficult when you haven't figured out why your obsessions and compulsions occur. Analyzing your triggers and finding their origins is key to managing your OCD symptoms. Whether it's washing hands, checking hands, or compulsively counting, identifying your triggers can help you understand how to avoid them.
It also helps to rate the intensity of stress or fear each trigger provokes and which ritualistic behaviors follow.
Keeping track of such metrics doesn't just help you anticipate these obsessions, but it also helps you find healthier alternatives for your compulsions. As a result, you can focus your attention on your studies instead of time-consuming rituals that only help short-term.
As a college student with OCD, it's imperative that you find a learning style that suits you best. The three learning styles are auditory, visual, or kinesthetic, and researching to find your own can help manage OCD symptoms. Once you find a learning style, you'll be able to format your notes and study material in a way tailor-fitted to your preferences.
You must also ensure that your course load fits your abilities. Your intrusive thoughts may urge you to take a heavier course load, but it's far more beneficial to take it slow and get your best grades on a lighter load.
Finally, it's crucial not to let your school life consume you entirely. If you're living on campus, stay in touch with your family and friends to build a healthy support system. Other than friends and family, it's also best to seek professional help in the form of therapy support groups and OCD treatment.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can make school life harder than it already is, but it can be an uphill battle. Along with professional help, you can also practice healthy coping mechanisms to reduce obsessions and compulsions while studying.