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The Obsessions and Compulsions of OCD

My previous blogs have looked at what OCD is and how devastating it can be. This blog looks in more detail at some of the most common obsessions and the compulsions that go with them. Again it must be stressed that a lot of us might do these sometimes, but not to the stage where our lives and our relationships are becoming affected by them.

The symptoms of OCD vary widely, depending upon the individual and the situation and people experience many symptoms other than those mentioned above.  Many people with OCD are able to function reasonably well, and friends, family and colleagues may not even suspect there’s a problem.  But when symptoms escalate to the point that they interfere with day to day life, when  excessive time is lost from work, when an individual is unable to work or study or when uncontrollable fear and anxiety are severely straining a relationship – it’s time to get help.

The Obsessions and Compulsions of OCD
Obsession: Fears of germs or contamination
  • Repeatedly washing hands
  • Avoiding touching “dirty” surfaces that others may have touched, including doorknobs, desks, computer keyboards, soap etc
  • Avoiding the use of public toilets
Obsession: Fears that harm, illness, or death, will befall self or other or fear of causing harm to self or others
  • Constantly going to GP in case a serious illness or condition has not been picked up in the past
  • Avoiding certain situations or groups of people (for example, young children) in case one harms them
  • “Checking” behaviour, such as making sure doors and windows are locked or electrical/gas appliances such as cooker, coffee machine, iron, hair straighteners are off
  • Checking light switches or turning them on and off repeatedly
  • Repeatedly checking to see if a child is still breathing during the night (when there has been no reason to be over-vigilant
Obsession: Fears/feelings related to numbers
  • Counting, touching or saying words a certain number of times (believing there is a magical significance to certain numbers and, for example, using those numbers to “magically” keep harm from coming to another), counting the number of steps between locations and having to start over if interrupted
  • Touching objects a certain number of times, not being able to move on unless this touching has been accomplished
  • Going back and forth through doorways a certain number of times before it’s OK to enter the room
Obsession: Fears/feelings/urges related to throwing something away
  • Saving useless items – papers, broken items, being unable to part with things that are not needed any more
  • Holding on to items for fear that they might be needed sometime in the future, such as books, newspapers, food, school papers
  • Buying multiples of the same item
Obsession: Fears/feelings/urges related to symmetry or order
  • Constantly lining up items or groups of items, such as books on a shelf or items on a desk, aligning edges to be “just right” or “even” (yes a lot of us do this, but not to the extent that it interferes with our lives)
  • Rearranging items to be in a certain order, for example, by colour or alphabetical order
Obsessions: Excessive doubting/dread of uncertainty
  • Constantly rechecking to see if everything that should be in a briefcase or handbag is actually there
  • Going outside to check something, e.g., that a car is actually locked – and doing this repeatedly
Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

See also: Is this OCD?, Common OCD Symptoms, What causes OCD?