Understanding and Overcoming “Not Just Right” Feelings in OCD

What Are “Not Just Right” Feelings in OCD?

“Not just right” (NJR) feelings are a common experience for individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). These feelings are characterized by a pervasive sense that something is off, incomplete, or not quite right. Unlike typical obsessions and compulsions, NJR feelings are not always linked to a specific fear or catastrophic thought; instead, they manifest as an internal sense of discomfort or unease that compels the person to perform certain actions or rituals until things feel “just right.”

How Common Are NJR Feelings and What Are Their Consequences?

NJR feelings are prevalent among people with OCD, with research suggesting that a significant proportion of individuals with OCD experience them. The consequences of NJR feelings can be profound, leading to substantial distress and impairment. People may spend excessive amounts of time performing rituals or arranging items in a specific way, which can interfere with daily functioning, work, and relationships. The constant quest for the “just right” sensation can be exhausting and greatly diminish quality of life, as this perfect feeling is fleeting, often disappearing quickly and restarting the cycle.

Understanding NJR Feelings from a Cognitive Perspective

From a cognitive perspective, NJR feelings are maintained by maladaptive beliefs and cognitive distortions. In the cognitive model, the way we think influences how we feel and behave. For individuals with OCD, certain maladaptive beliefs contribute to the persistence of NJR feelings. These beliefs often revolve around the need for perfection, certainty, and control.

What Are Some Maladaptive Beliefs in NJR Feelings?

  1. “I have to feel ‘right’ all the time.”
  2. “Feeling ‘not right’? Something must be totally WRONG!”
  3. “Feeling ‘not just right’? RUN!”

These maladaptive beliefs fuel the NJR feelings and lead to compulsive behaviors aimed at alleviating the discomfort. However, these behaviors only provide temporary relief, reinforcing the cycle of OCD.

What Are Some Adaptive Beliefs to Counter NJR Feelings?

  1. “Feeling ‘right’ is good, but not essential.”
  2. “I tolerate ‘not just right’ episodes.”
  3. “I face my ‘not just right’ feelings.”

Adopting these adaptive beliefs can help reduce the intensity and frequency of NJR feelings, leading to more adaptive behaviors and improved overall functioning.

How Do These Beliefs Influence Behavior?

Maladaptive Thinking and Behaviors:

  1. “I have to feel ‘right’ all the time”: Leads to excessive checking and rearranging until things feel perfect, but this perfect feeling is impermanent, often vanishing quickly and prompting the cycle to start again.
  2. “Feeling ‘not right’? Something must be totally WRONG!”: Results in repeated questioning and seeking reassurance to eliminate uncertainty.
  3. “Feeling ‘not just right’? RUN!”: Causes avoidance of situations that might trigger the NJR feelings.

Adaptive Thinking and Behaviors:

  1. “Feeling ‘right’ is good, but not essential”: Allows for completion of tasks without unnecessary repetition.
  2. “I tolerate ‘not just right’ episodes”: Encourages facing uncertain situations without excessive reassurance-seeking.
  3. “I face my ‘not just right’ feelings”: Promotes engagement in activities without undue avoidance.

Case Example: Sarah’s NJR Feelings

Sarah, a 30-year-old teacher, experiences intense NJR feelings when arranging her classroom. She feels that if the desks are not perfectly aligned, something terrible will happen to her students. This belief leads her to spend hours each day adjusting the desks, causing her to stay late at school and miss out on personal activities.

Through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Sarah learns to challenge her belief that the desks must be perfectly aligned to prevent harm. She begins to accept that imperfection is acceptable and that her fears are exaggerated. By gradually tolerating the discomfort of leaving the desks slightly misaligned, Sarah reduces her compulsive behaviors and finds more balance in her life.


“Not just right” feelings are a significant aspect of OCD that can cause considerable distress and impairment. Understanding these feelings from a cognitive perspective highlights the importance of addressing maladaptive beliefs and promoting adaptive thinking. By challenging and changing these beliefs, individuals can reduce the impact of NJR feelings and improve their quality of life.

“Not Just Right” (NJR) Feelings in OCD Quiz
“Not Just Right” (NJR) Feelings in OCD: Test Your Knowledge

What characterizes “Not Just Right” (NJR) feelings in OCD?

How do NJR feelings impact daily functioning for individuals with OCD?

What is one adaptive belief that can help counter NJR feelings?

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