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Are you or someone you know living with OCD? Understanding the signs and symptoms can help you get an accuratediagnosisand the treatment necessary to improve your quality of life.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental health disorder characterized by excessive thoughts (obsessions) which leads a person to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

Obsessive Thoughts

People living with OCD experience repeated and persistent unwanted thoughts that cause strong emotional reactions, such as anxiety. Examples of obsessive thoughts include:

  • Fear of germs or contamination

  • Fear of harming self or others

  • Fear of losing something, or someone, important

  • Wanting things orderly or symmetrical

  • Doubting that you forgot to do something important, such as locking the door or turning off the oven

  • Intense worry that something isn't complete

Looking inside the brain.


Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that people diagnosed with OCD feel compelled to perform in order to rid themselves of obsessive thoughts.

Sometimes, a person's compulsions are directly related to their obsessive thoughts, such as washing hands as a result of an intense fear of germs. Other times, however, the compulsions are unrelated to these obsessive thoughts.

Examples of compulsions include:

  • Repeatedly cleaning and organizing

  • Arranging things in a particular way

  • Checking things repeatedly, such as if the door is locked

  • Rituals related to numbers, such as counting or avoiding certain numbers

  • Avoidance behavior, such as avoiding certain people and places

  • Repeatedly washing hands

Woman obsessively vacuuming


Which of the following is an example of a compulsive behavior characteristic of OCD?

The Faces of People Living with OCD

For years, Rebecca has experienced obsessive thoughts about germs. She is so fearful that she may catch a disease, that she has developed compulsions such as:

  • Washing her hands until they're raw

  • Showering 2-3 times per day

  • Avoiding contact with others

Rebecca feels that failure to perform these actions can result in disease or even death.

Lately, Anthony has had racing and obsessive thoughts about losing his loved ones. To calm his thoughts, he has developed rituals with numbers, such as:

  • Avoiding odd numbers

  • Counting to the number 8 over and over again

  • Performing certain actions an even number of times

Anthony feels that if he doesn't engage in these counting rituals, tragedy may strike his loved ones.


Why do OCD sufferers engage in compulsive behaviors? Select all that apply.

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Man talking about OCD

Understanding the signs and symptoms of OCD can help you (or someone you love) begin to manage this disorder.


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