From the outside, the compulsive behaviors of people with OCD are often perceived by others as a lack of impulse control. This feature of the condition contributes to it frequently being seen as a character flaw. Compulsive behaviors aren’t impulsive and they aren’t the result of a lack of discipline. In fact, the reality is the opposite.
The amount of energy I have expended over the course of my life to suppress compulsive behaviors is impossible to calculate. It takes extreme discipline to keep the behaviors bottled up.
Even when it feels like they would bring relief from worry and obsession, I have tamped the urges down. I obsess over planning compulsive behaviors almost as much as I do the intrusive thoughts that make them seem like a necessity. Whatever I am doing to try and make the obsessive thoughts abate may look like it came out of left field, but is something I have been thinking about for a long time.
Developing an understanding of the profound effect OCD has on someone’s life and cultivating empathy is challenging for those who have never experienced it. When you are someone who can put negative thoughts out of your mind, even if it takes effort, then it may be tough to conceptualize someone else being unable to do the same, no matter how hard they try.
Consider that the rash action you believe someone else is taking may not be hasty or impulsive. It may be the one thing they believe is in their power to do in order to make the stress and anxiety they feel go away.
The compulsive behavior may not be objectively the best course of action. The person with OCD likely knows that. And, it may be what their brain is telling them they must do to regain a sense of control over their own thoughts.
This reality is one of the hardest aspects of living with OCD, in my experience.