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Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are:

  • Obsessions—unwanted, repetitive, and intrusive ideas, impulses, or images
  • Compulsions—repetitive behaviors or mental acts usually performed to reduce the anxiety or distress associated with obsessions

If you have OCD, you know that your thoughts and behaviors are nonsensical, and you would like to avoid or stop them.

Common obsessions include:

  • Persistent fears that harm may come to yourself or a loved one
  • Unreasonable concern about becoming contaminated
  • Unreasonable concern about safety
  • Unacceptable religious, violent, or sexual thoughts
  • Excessive need to do things perfectly

Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive checking of door locks, stoves, water faucets, light switches, etc
  • Repeatedly making lists, counting, arranging, or aligning things
  • Collecting and hoarding useless objects
  • Repeating routine actions a certain number of times until it feels just right
  • Unnecessary re-reading and re-writing
  • Mentally repeating phrases
  • Repeated hand washing

Most people with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions, but some only have one or the other. The majority of patients with OCD are ashamed of their disorder, and many find it hard to confide in a doctor. However, now that effective treatments are available, more people are talking to their doctor about their symptoms.

Revision Information

  • About OCD. International OCD Foundation website. Available at: https://iocdf.org/about-ocd. Accessed June 15, 2016.

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 13, 2016. Accessed June 15, 2016.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml. Updated January 2016. Accessed June 15, 2016.