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OCD Signs and Symptoms

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Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder can vary depending on the individual. Some people with OCD (OCD definition) may realize that their obsessions and compulsions are excessive and senseless. Others may have absolutely no insight into the excessive nature of their thoughts and actions. Still others lie somewhere in-between.

Signs and Symptoms of OCD

The typical signs and symptoms of OCD are not difficult to spot if you pay attention. Although some people with OCD may attempt to hide their irrational, excessive behaviors, those with the disorder often display these symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder:

  • Repeated intrusive and obsessive thoughts or images about a variety of things: fear of contamination by germs or dirt; fear of intruders; preoccupation with violent acts; unwanted sexual images and acts; unwanted religious thoughts (Scrupulosity: Religious Obsessions and Compulsions); preoccupation with neatness; thinking of certain sounds, images, words, or numbers.
  • Perform the same ritual repeatedly such as: hand washing; locking and unlocking doors; opening and closing cabinets and drawers; hoarding useless possessions; counting; repeating the same steps; excessive cleaning and tidying; constant need for approval; silently repeating nonsense words; skin picking; hoarding; hair pulling.
  • Person does not derive pleasure from performing the rituals, but does experience a brief respite from anxiety caused by the OCD intrusive thoughts.
  • The OCD intrusive thoughts and behaviors take up at least one hour per day, causing stress and interfering with daily life and social activities.

Living with Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Imagine that you keep having a persistent thought that you're at risk for contracting a deadly disease. The only thing that gives you momentary relief from these intrusive thoughts and the anxiety they produce is washing your hands. You wash your hands, but only minutes after you've sat back down on the sofa to relax, the thoughts return and you feel the strong urge to wash your hands again. You end up repeating this so many times that evening that you missed your favorite television series and a phone call from work. Finally, you fall into bed, exhausted. Only, the thoughts return in the morning. You call into work because the thought of making the 30 minute drive to the office without being able to wash your hands brings on debilitating anxiety. OCD can take over your life and rob you of precious activities and events. (more on effects of OCD)

This scenario represents just a general description of the signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you have repetitive thoughts or images that cause you to experience great anxiety and if you feel an urge to repeat ritualistic behaviors, consult a mental health professional. A qualified mental health expert will listen to your concerns and give you additional obsessive-compulsive disorder help and information.

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next: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Test
~ all ocd articles

Last Updated: 03 February 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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