OCD and a Fear of Plagiarism

An obsessive fear of plagiarism can interfere with your ability to produce quality work in a timely fashion.
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Obsessive-compulsive disorder — commonly called OCD — is an anxiety disorder that causes obsessive, anxious thoughts. People with the disorder engage in compulsions such as counting, repeatedly checking their work or washing their hands to alleviate the obsessive thoughts. Some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder experience overwhelming anxiety about their work and this can contribute to fear of accidental plagiarism. There's no quick cure for OCD, but there are several steps you can take to reduce your symptoms and avoid plagiarism.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. OCD can often be managed with anti-anxiety medications. Even if you're already on medication, the stress and pressures of school can exacerbate your symptoms. You might need a higher dose or a different drug to see results.

Consult with a therapist. College students can often get free or low-cost treatment from their school's counseling center. While medication can help with the worst symptoms of OCD, many people with the disorder need therapy to help them deal with their anxious thoughts and to implement coping strategies for dealing with the disorder. Students who are new to college, who have transferred schools or who are struggling academically are especially susceptible to worsening symptoms. A qualified therapist can help you re-frame negative thoughts and make lifestyle changes to help you cope.

Use a plagiarism checker to check each paper you write. It's easy for people with OCD to get caught up in checking every sentence or checking drafts, but avoid checking your paper until you're finished with it. There are several online plagiarism checkers and some schools offer students access to paid plagiarism checkers.

  • When you're writing, avoid looking at your sources as you write. Instead, take notes and then write your paper. If you check your sources as you write your final copy, you're more likely to accidentally plagiarize.
  • Cite all of your sources on a works cited or reference page and use in-text citations when you're quoting or using a statistic or study.

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.