Signs of OCD - A Look at the Most Common Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an illness that makes people have recurrent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and forces them to repeat certain behaviors again and again (compulsions). This is very different from the usual habits and routines that we all have in our daily lives. Recent studies have shown that around 3 million people in the age group of 18 to 54 are affected by this disorder in the United State alone. Here is a look at the common symptoms and signs of OCD.

Obsessions as a symptom of OCD

When ideas, images, and impulses run through an individual’s mind again and again, they are known as obsessions. Here are some of the main features of this symptom of OCD:

  • The individual does not want to have these thoughts and realizes that they are disturbing. They even understand that they do not make any sense. However, they are not able to control these obsessive thoughts.

  • The thoughts can be there for a little time and may not be too bothersome. However, sometimes these obsessive thoughts are present all the time.

  • Another key feature of this symptom of OCD is that the obsessive thoughts are accompanied by feelings that are uncomfortable. These feelings can include fears, disgust, or doubts.

  • There are certain obsessive thoughts that are quite common among people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. These are some of the most common obsessions:

    • The person may have a fear of dirt or germs and may feel disgusted with bodily waste or fluids.
    • There may be an excessive concern with maintaining order and balance and a need for things to be exactly the way they want.
    • The person may worry that a task has not been done well, even though they know this is not true.
    • There may be a fear of having evil or sinful thoughts.
    • Certain sounds, images, words, or numbers may keep repeating in the person’s mind all the time.
    • There may be a fear of harming a loved one.
    • There may be excessive religious or moral doubts about one’s conduct.

Continue reading about the other symptoms of OCD on the next page.

Compulsions as a symptom of OCD

Compulsions are also one of the main symptoms of OCD. Since the obsessive thoughts make an OCD person nervous and scared, they try and get rid of these uncomfortable feelings by performing certain behaviors that are called rituals or compulsive behaviors. Here are the features of this symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder:

  • The compulsive acts are performed according to certain rules that people with OCD make up for themselves. So, if the person has a fear of germs, they will repeatedly perform the compulsive behavior of washing hands.

  • Another key feature of this symptom of OCD is that the compulsive behaviors help them get rid of their uncomfortable feelings for a short while. However, the feelings come back very soon and the person with OCD has to repeat the routine again.

  • If they are not able to perform these compulsive acts, the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, fear, and doubt keep on increasing.

  • There are certain compulsive behaviors that are commonly present as symptoms of OCD and these include the following:

    • The person may wash hands, brush teeth, or shower repeatedly to get rid of the fears of contamination.
    • He or she may check drawers, door locks, or appliances repeatedly to make sure they are shut, locked, or turned off.
    • The individual may count to a certain number over and over again or may order and arrange certain items in a particular way.
    • Repetitive actions such as touching certain objects for specific number of times or going in and out of the door are common compulsive behaviors.

Other features of OCD

  • Although obsessions are usually followed by compulsive behaviors, there may be certain instances where the individual may only have obsessions but no accompanying compulsions.
  • The symptoms of OCD are quite distressing for the individual and they take up more than an hour of the person’s day.
  • The symptoms of OCD interfere with the person’s work, relationships, and social life.
  • People with OCD are usually aware that their obsessions are real problems, and not just excessive worry. They are also aware that their compulsions are unreasonable behaviors.
  • It has been found that OCD is often accompanied by depression, eating disorders, and other anxiety disorders.


Mental Health America: Factsheet: Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)

National Institute of Mental Health: When Unwanted Thoughts Take Over: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

American Academy of Family Physicians: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: What It Is and How to Treat It