List of OCD Symptoms

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Understanding OCD Symptoms

A list of OCD symptoms will make more sense if a person first understands that the condition is complex and plays out in many different ways. The two common factors are the obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are defined as persistent thoughts, impulses and feelings that intrude on a person’s mind and cause abnormal amounts of worry, anxiety and doubt. Compulsions are repetitive acts or thought patterns that are engaged in to relieve the fear and anxiety caused by the obsessions.

OCD Symptoms

OCD manifests in a number of different ways, each with its own set of signs and behaviors. Here is a list of OCD symptoms along with some of the common ways OCD affects people:

  • Compulsive washers and cleaners have a fear of contamination. This may be from germs, dirt, blood or a whole array of other substances. Sufferers of this form of OCD typically spend an excessive amount of time showering, washing their hands or scrubbing areas of their home. They often use harsh cleaning chemicals and may end up with raw skin on their hands as a result.
  • Checkers feel compelled to repeatedly check that they have turned appliances off, locked doors and windows and secured anything they feel is a source of danger. They fear that if they do not do these checks, some disaster will befall them.
  • Ordering and symmetry obsessions cause people to arrange certain items into a specific order. This may be numerical, by color, by name or symmetrically and often includes things like CDs, cans of food and books. They only feel comfortable and satisfied if their ordering is done perfectly. If someone touches the arrangement or puts it out of order, they can become angry and upset.
  • Hoarding is characterized by the amassing of worthless items such as milk cartons, old magazines and newspapers, and margarine tubs. The person finds it difficult to make a decision to throw anything away. They fear that something bad will happen or an item will suddenly be needed if they discard it. Hoarding can be harmful to a person’s health if it gets out of hand and their home is cluttered with rubbish.
  • Scrupulosity involves the fear of offending God. This obsession is addressed by compulsions to pray, perform religious rituals and repeatedly confess to imagined or real failures. The person may become obsessed with a member of the clergy and seek reassurance from them on a regular basis.
  • Violent or sexual thoughts are accompanied by the fear of losing control and acting on them. The person struggles to suppress the thoughts and may resort to mental exercises such as counting, praying or repeating words to try and counteract them.

This is a basic list of OCD symptoms that can help people to see if they are suffering from OCD. There is help available and if symptoms are present, it is important to consult a health professional as soon as possible.


Coping with OCD by Bruce M Hyman and Troy Dufrene, New Harbinger Publications, 2008

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