People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) suffer from unwanted and intrusive thoughts, urges or images that they can’t seem to get out of their heads (obsessions). Several hours every day may be spent focusing on obsessive thoughts, compelling them to repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors and routines (compulsions) to try and ease the associated anxiety.
Obsessions — unwanted intrusive thoughts
- Constant, irrational worry about dirt, germs, or contamination.
- Excessive concern with order, arrangement, or symmetry.
- Fear that negative or aggressive thoughts or impulses will cause personal harm or harm to a loved one.
- Preoccupation with losing or throwing away objects with little or no value.
- Excessive concern about accidentally or purposefully injuring another person.
- Feeling overly responsible for the safety of others.
- Distasteful religious and sexual thoughts or images.
- Doubting that is irrational or excessive.
Compulsions — ritualistic behaviors and routines to ease anxiety or distress
- Cleaning — Repeatedly washing hands, bathing, or cleaning household items, often for hours at a time.
- Checking — Checking and re-checking several to hundreds of times a day that the doors are locked, the stove is turned off, the hairdryer is unplugged, etc.
- Repeating — Inability to stop repeating a name, phrase, or simple activity (such as going through a doorway over and over).
- Hoarding — Difficulty throwing away useless items such as old newspapers or magazines, bottle caps, or rubber bands.
- Mental rituals — Endless reviewing of conversations, counting; repetitively calling up “good” thoughts to neutralize “bad” thoughts; or excessive praying and using special words or phrases to neutralize obsessions.