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Want to know about obsessive-compulsive disorder signs and symptoms? Give a read here.

Sep 21, 2023 By Nancy Miller

OCD is a mental health problem characterized by recurring thoughts and activities. This article explores OCD symptoms for healthcare professionals and people interested in understanding this complex illness.

Understanding OCD Basics

Popular culture often misrepresents obsessive-compulsive disorder. By truly grasping the two core components – obsessions and compulsions – we can better serve individuals affected by this condition.


The very heart of OCD lies in its obsessions. These are intrusive, unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. While individuals might recognize these thoughts as irrational, combating them can be an immense struggle.

Intrusiveness of Thoughts

One of the defining characteristics of symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder is the intrusiveness of thoughts. Individuals often describe these thoughts as unwanted invaders, creating significant mental space and turmoil.

The Distress Factor

The distress these obsessions cause is not mere discomfort. It's a profound distress, often leading to shame, anxiety, and guilt. Recognizing this pain level is crucial in differentiating between passing worries and obsessive-compulsive disorder signs and symptoms.


Compulsions, while sometimes viewed as mere quirks or habits by outsiders, are vital to understanding. These are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that individuals feel driven to perform in response to an obsession.

Ritualistic Nature

Most compulsions are ritualistic. For example, an individual might need to turn a light switch on and off a specific number of times or tap an object repeatedly. These rituals, however, rarely offer long-term relief from obsessive thoughts.

Temporary Relief

These compulsive behaviors might provide temporary respite from the distress caused by obsessions. Yet, this short-lived relief often leads to an exhausting cycle of repeated behaviors.

Common Obsessions in OCD

Given the diverse nature of the human mind, obsessions can take on numerous forms. However, several patterns have emerged over the years, forming the most common categories of obsessions in OCD.

Fear of Germs or Contamination

Concerns about hygiene and cleanliness are amplified in individuals with this obsession. While many of us might double-check if we've washed our hands, these individuals might pass repetitively due to an overpowering fear of contamination, making it one of the more recognized obsessive compulsive personality disorder symptoms.

Need for Symmetry or Exactness

The slightest misalignment or asymmetry can trigger immense distress. Some objects must be positioned in a particular order or orientation, making daily tasks painstakingly long.

Fear of Harming Oneself or Others

This obsession can be particularly distressing. Persistent, intrusive thoughts about causing unintended harm to oneself or loved ones can be debilitating, even if the individual has no intention of acting on these thoughts.

Fear of Making a Mistake

Perfectionism can sometimes be a mask for deep-seated fears of making mistakes. Such individuals might seek continuous reassurance or repeatedly check their work.

Common Compulsions in OCD

Compulsions serve as a response mechanism to the distress caused by obsessions. However, they're not merely habits or routines but intense, ritualistic behaviors or mental acts.

Cleaning and Washing

Compulsions often manifest as excessive cleaning or washing for those with contamination obsessions. This could range from repeated handwashing to cleaning household items multiple times daily.


This compulsion involves verifying actions repetitively. It's common for someone to check if the doors are locked several times before feeling assured. This symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder can be particularly time-consuming.


Numbers can offer a semblance of order for some. Counting compulsions involve repeating specific numbers or counting steps or items repeatedly to feel a sense of relief or control.

Ordering and Arranging

Everything must have its place. For some, this extends to a level where objects must be arranged in a particular manner. Deviations may require restarting the process.

OCD Diagnostic Criteria

OCD diagnosis sometimes requires a multifaceted approach. The method includes clinical exams and rigorous evaluations to ensure proper diagnosis. OCD diagnostic criteria are listed below.

Physical Examination

The diagnosis must begin with a physical assessment. This phase rules out other health issues that may be causing or aggravating symptoms. Some neurological illnesses mirror obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms. Thus, a thorough physical exam helps identify OCD from other medical conditions.

Lab Tests

Laboratory tests are crucial in the diagnostic process, especially to rule out other potential causes for the symptoms. Some of the tests include:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): A CBC can offer patient health insights.Infections or anemia that cause fatigue, weakness, or other symptoms that could be OCD can be detected.
  • Thyroid Function Test: An overactive or underactive thyroid can cause anxiety or depression. This test ensures that the thyroid functions correctly and is not the reason behind the observed symptoms.
  • Drug and Alcohol Tests: Substance abuse can lead to behavioral changes and sometimes be confused with obsessive compulsive personality disorder symptoms. It is crucial to rule out any substance-induced behavioral changes.

Psychological Evaluation

Psychological evaluations discuss thoughts, feelings, behavior patterns, and daily routines. This helps determine the presence of any obsessions or compulsions, which are the hallmark signs of OCD.

  • Discussion on Obsessions: This part of the evaluation focuses on understanding the patient's intrusive thoughts. Are they consistent? Do they cause distress? The nature and intensity of these thoughts can give insights into obsessive compulsive disorder signs and symptoms.
  • Understanding Compulsions: It's essential to understand if the patient feels compelled to perform specific actions repeatedly. Identifying these patterns, whether physical activity, like hand washing or a mental ritual, is critical.
  • Duration and Impact: Another vital aspect of this evaluation is determining how long these obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors have been present and the extent of their impact on the patient's daily life.

Impact of OCD on Daily Life

The obsessive compulsive disorder signs and symptoms can substantially affect an individual's daily life, from personal relationships to professional endeavors. Recognizing the widespread influence of OCD is crucial for holistic treatment and support.

Personal Relationships

Individuals with OCD often face challenges in maintaining personal relationships due to compulsive behaviors and the distressing nature of their obsessions. These might manifest as avoidance behaviors or excessive reassurance-seeking from loved ones.

Professional Challenges

The workplace can become a challenging environment for those with OCD. Repetitive compulsions might make task completion lengthy, and the need for perfectionism could lead to repeated checks or difficulty delegating tasks.

Mental Well-being

Beyond the primary obsessive compulsive disorder signs and symptoms, many individuals with OCD also experience associated mental health challenges. Those with the condition commonly report anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.

Physical Health

Repeated compulsive actions, especially washing or cleaning, can lead to physical complications. Overwashing might result in skin issues, while other compulsions can lead to exhaustion or other health problems.

Treatment Options for OCD

Effective OCD treatment improves the quality of life. Combining therapies may work better for some than others.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT effectively treats obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms. It entails helping people notice and challenge obsessive thoughts and gradually diminish compulsive actions.


SSRIs are approved to treat OCD. These medicines can assist in regulating brain serotonin, reducing OCD symptoms.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation might be an option for individuals who don't respond to conventional treatments. It involves implanting electrodes to stimulate specific brain areas linked to OCD.

Support Groups

Joining a support group can provide individuals with OCD a platform to share experiences and coping techniques. These organizations can provide emotional support and community, reducing isolation from the condition.


OCD is a complex mental ailment that affects victims significantly. Recognizing obsessions, compulsions, and similar themes improves awareness, diagnosis, and assistance. OCD myths and misconceptions must also be dispelled. The path to effective treatment and empathy starts with proper information and a genuine commitment to grasping the true nature of OCD. As healthcare professionals and supportive community members, our role is pivotal in ensuring that individuals with OCD receive the understanding, care, and assistance they deserve. With continued research and focused attention, we can hope for an improved future for those grappling with obsessive-compulsive disorder signs and symptoms.

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