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Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are:

  • Obsessions—unwanted, repetitive, and intrusive ideas, impulses, or images
  • Compulsions—repetitive behaviors or mental acts usually performed to reduce the anxiety or distress associated with obsessions

If you have OCD, you know that your thoughts and behaviors are nonsensical, and you would like to avoid or stop them.

Common obsessions include:

  • Persistent fears that harm may come to yourself or a loved one
  • Unreasonable concern about becoming contaminated
  • Unreasonable concern about safety
  • Unacceptable religious, violent, or sexual thoughts
  • Excessive need to do things perfectly

Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive checking of door locks, stoves, water faucets, light switches, etc
  • Repeatedly making lists, counting, arranging, or aligning things
  • Collecting and hoarding useless objects
  • Repeating routine actions a certain number of times until it feels just right
  • Unnecessary re-reading and re-writing
  • Mentally repeating phrases
  • Repeated hand washing

Most people with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions. About one-fourth have obsessions only and about 5% have only compulsions. The majority of patients with OCD are ashamed of their disorder, and many find it hard to confide in a doctor. However, now that effective treatments are available, more sufferers are talking to their doctors about their symptoms.

References:

Moore DP, Jefferson JW. Handbook of Medical Psychiatry . 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2004.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml . April 2008. Accessed September 8, 2008.



Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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