OCD Common Obsessions and Compulsions Among People With OCD By Owen Kelly, PhD Owen Kelly, PhD Owen Kelly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor, and author in Ontario, ON, who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders. Learn about our editorial process Updated on June 28, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Image Source/Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Common OCD Compulsions Common OCD Obsessions Treatment for OCD A key symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is compulsions. Compulsions are behaviors done in response to an obsessive thought. A person with OCD may repeat these behaviors over and over again, possibly for hours on end, in order to try and relieve anxiety. In OCD, examples of compulsions include repeated handwashing or counting, but everyone with OCD is different and may display different behaviors. Even though people with OCD feel driven to engage in these behaviors, they probably don't want to. Though the behaviors do lessen the negative feelings of anxiety, guilt, or fear, they do so only temporarily, and they take a lot of time. Obsessive behavior may significantly impact quality of life. Common Compulsions in OCD A compulsion can be a physical act or a mental one. Examples of common compulsions among people with OCD include: Repeatedly checking to make sure that doors and windows are locked or that appliances are turned off; some individuals with OCD have to check their neighborhood to make sure they have not hit someone with their car or assaulted someoneExcessive cleaning of the house, clothes, and/or bodyCounting objects, letters, words, or actionsDoing routine activities repeatedly, like standing up or going up and down stairsRequesting or demanding reassurance from family members or health care providers, such as "My hands should be clean now, right?"Repeating phrases or sequences of words either out loud or mentallyRearranging objects to ensure a specific order and/or symmetryDoing things in multiples; for instance, turning the light on and off five times because five is a "good" number Sometimes, compulsive behavior is present in other conditions, such as addiction, binge-eating disorder, or hoarding disorder. These are not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, although there are overlapping symptoms. Common Obsessions in OCD Obsessions are the other half of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the experience that causes compulsive behaviors. Obsessions involve thoughts, feelings, and mental images that can seem like they are taking over. They may cause people with OCD to feel a terrible lack of control, as well as significant anxiety, fear, disgust, shame, or guilt. Common obsessions among people with OCD include: A fear of contamination, such as germs, viruses, body fluids, animals, diseases, chemicals, or dirt Fear of losing control of yourself by acting on thoughts or impulses, such as harming someone, stealing, blurting out swear words, or becoming violent Fear of accidentally hurting someone else because of something you did or forgot to do, such as not cleaning up water that you spilled and causing someone to slip and fall Unwanted sexual obsessions, thoughts, or images about children, incest, and/or aggressiveness Worry about living a moral enough life Fear of losing or forgetting something important Worry about how straight or even objects are An inability to make decisions on what to keep and what to throw away A fixation on certain numbers and/or colors being good/correct or bad/incorrect Common Cognitive Distortions in OCD Treatment for Obsessive Behaviors Treatment for OCD is available. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors can often be dramatically reduced using behavior therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP). Some people also benefit from medications. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac (fluoxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Paxil (paroxetine hydrochloride), or Zoloft (sertraline) may be helpful in treating OCD. The Best Online Therapy Programs We've tried, tested and written unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, Betterhelp, and Regain. 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Rifkind N. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Understanding and Healing Touching and Movement Rituals. International OCD Foundation. What is OCD?. Decloedt EH, Stein DJ. Current trends in drug treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2010;6:233-42. doi:10.2147/ndt.s3149 Additional Reading American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013. Hezel DM, Simpson HB. Exposure and response prevention for obsessive-compulsive disorder: A review and new directions. Indian J Psychiatry. 2019;61(Suppl 1):S85-S92. doi:10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_516_18 National Institute of Mental Health. Obessive-Compulsive Disorder. By Owen Kelly, PhD Owen Kelly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor, and author in Ontario, ON, who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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