I often find myself saying things like "I have to finish at the end of a chapter because I'm OCD". Here, I'm just using the term colloquially. I dislike using it because I don't have OCD, and I'd like to not be subtly perpetuating the misconception that real OCD is just a minor or very mild thing. I considered going with "obsessive compulsive", but that strikes me as long-winded and too likely to make the person default to thinking "OCD". Any suggestions?

  • 1
    Well, you could always say "anal".
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 19, 2015 at 0:31
  • I'm not sure how that simple option escaped me. Thanks.
    – GMS
    Oct 19, 2015 at 0:32
  • There is another term, but it's not coming to me at the moment.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 19, 2015 at 0:35
  • Using anal just pushes the problem into Freudian territory and out of DSM territory. You might, however, find Freudian turf more satisfactory, however much more unsavory the connotations may be.
    – JEL
    Oct 19, 2015 at 0:43
  • I don't mind the Freudian connotations too much because the connection between anal and Freud is less well known in my experience than the connection between OCD and the actual medical issue, but I've decided anal doesn't work for another reason: I find anal tends to be used when the person's "quirks" are a problem for others and seen as annoying, whereas I want a more neutral term.
    – GMS
    Oct 19, 2015 at 0:48

3 Answers 3


If you have to finish the chapter because you're obsessed with the material, you could use obsessed, or obsessive.

If you have to finish the chapter because you feel compelled to finish what you've started, you could use compelled or compulsive.

It's probably going to be better to recast the sentence to use compelled ("I feel compelled" or similar) or obsessed (as with compelled) than to use either obsessive or compulsive.

A technical term that has been overused by laymen approximating the technical sense, in much the same way that 'obsessive' and 'compulsive' have been so abused, is 'fixated'.

Another approach, but one which guesses at your reasons for feeling compelled to finish the chapter, is to use 'systematic' or 'highly organized' or another variant of those: 'compulsively systematic', 'obsessively systematic', etc.

[Personally, I don't have to finish the chapter, but usually want to because doing so helps me remember where I was without using a bookmark which I have somehow lost track of. It also helps me remember the preceding material. All of that I can do without, but prefer not to.]

  • I agree...personally, I don't like the term "anal" used for this kind of stuff. Oct 19, 2015 at 0:53

In some contexts, though perhaps not the one in your example, you could say that you were a 'perfectionist'. It would describe someone who could not leave a task uncompleted or who would carry out a task with excess care. Perhaps someone who would clean their kitchen cupboards with a toothbrush and not go out in the evening because they hadn't finished it!


Perhaps one can use the term paranoid in its non-medical sense. Using paranoid with about usually implies the non-medical sense; that the subject is just being too obsessive/anxious about a particular thing/topic.

"I have to finish at the end of a chapter because I'm, well, paranoid about it".


paranoid ADJECTIVE
1.1 Unreasonably or obsessively anxious, suspicious, or mistrustful:
‘you think I'm paranoid but I tell you there is something going on’

‘I am paranoid about personal hygiene, and I constantly wash clothes and burn candles in my apartment for company.’
‘‘People are paranoid about what they can eat and what they can't,’ Jenny points out.’

  • Either informally or medically, the primary meaning of 'paranoid' is suspicious and mistrustful, not anxious. And those two have little if anything to do with being obsessive or compulsive, again either informally or medically.
    – Mitch
    Nov 13, 2016 at 16:25
  • I meant the Unreasonably or obsessively anxious part alone in the definition. I certainly remember people (informally) using the term with no implication of suspicion or mistrust, to only indicate obsessiveness/anxiety, like, "I am paranoid about replying to every email immediately". Nov 13, 2016 at 16:34
  • Oh. To me that seems like an informal slippage of meaning of 'paranoid' to 'anxious' (what I would call informally a 'mistake'). But if people do it then I guess anxiety is part of the informal word now. Clinically of course they are distinct concepts with distinct symptoms, but also clinically many of these separate features occur at the same time and exacerbate each other (e.g. OCD and depression, or phobias and anxiety) either by external effect (you get depressed because of the uncontrollable OCD) or being conceptually similar (claustrophobia is closely realted to general social anxiety)
    – Mitch
    Nov 13, 2016 at 16:53

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