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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Shaw

Common Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that is characterized by unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions can be time-consuming and interfere with a person's daily life.

a man unable to work efficiently due to checking
The urge to check and check again can interrupt any job


Obsessions are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, images, or urges repeatedly coming into a person's mind. Obsessions can be about anything, but they are often about:

  • Germs, cleanliness, or order

  • Harming oneself or others

  • Religious or moral concerns

  • Sexual thoughts or images

Unfortunately, many people with OCD believe the nature of their thoughts means something about them. If they have obsessive thoughts about poisoning loved ones or rape, they may fear that some part of them will enact these thoughts as though it were a deep desire. This is not the case. This fear is a huge barrier to seeking treatment. Many fear being judged by the content of these obsessions, but this will not occur with a psychologist.


Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or rituals a person feels the need to do to reduce the anxiety caused by their obsessions. Compulsions can be simple, such as washing your hands, or more complex, such as checking things repeatedly. Usually, it is the compulsions that cause the most issues in life. As the compulsions provide temporary, immediate relief from discomfort, they become more frequent and intrusive. Over time, many people with OCD become unable to engage in their usual life activities as the compulsions make it extremely difficult to go about a typical day.


People with OCD may also avoid situations that they associate with their obsessions. For example, someone with OCD about germs may avoid public bathrooms. While this may seem reasonable on the surface, over time, the avoidance tendencies will worsen. Commonly, people experiencing OCD will ultimately begin sacrificing important activities and events to avoid any trigger of their obsessions. Many people with OCD report feeling alone and depressed as their life shrinks to avoid triggers.

Here are some of the most common OCD symptoms:

  • Checking: Checking things over and over again to make sure they are done correctly. For example, checking that the stove is turned off, the door is locked, or that you have not left anything behind.

  • Washing: Washing your hands excessively or in a certain way to prevent contamination.

  • Counting: Counting things or repeating certain words or phrases to reduce anxiety.

  • Arranging: Arranging objects in a certain way to feel comfortable.

  • Avoiding: Avoiding situations that trigger obsessions or compulsions.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help from a psychologist. OCD is a treatable condition, and there are several effective treatments available.

Keywords: OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, symptoms, obsessions, compulsions, avoidance, treatment

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