Symptoms of OCD

What are the symptoms of OCD?

The most common obsessions involve thoughts and fears of contamination, and fears of harm to self or others. Other obsessions include thoughts, images and impulses associated with symmetry and orderliness, illness, religious or moral issues, sexual concerns, and needs to save, collect or remember things. These obsessions can vary from time to time both in nature and severity. Obsessions do not respond to logic, and produce feelings from annoyance and discomfort to acute distress, disgust and panic.

Common compulsions include excessive hand washing, showering, cleaning and checking. Other compulsions include hoarding, repeating routine activities and actions, touching and tapping, applying rigid rules and patterns to the placement of objects, needing to constantly ask or confess, and a range of mental compulsions such as counting and repeating words. The compulsions generally are excessive and ritualised behaviours, involving constant repetitions.

For example, a person with OCD may spend 2-3 hours every day in the shower, and several more hours hand washing, or washing clothes, food and household items. Their anxiety may not only be that they are dirty themselves, but that they may infect others, contaminate foodstuffs and so forth. They may know that further washing is unnecessary, but they cannot stop the feeling of needing to wash and re-wash. Similarly, compulsions to check may involve repeatedly checking light and power switches to ensure that they are off, or checking locks to ensure that they are secure, despite knowing that they had just checked them.

These compulsions and obsessions may take up many hours of a person's day. They can intrude into many routine activities and actions - for example, walking, eating, opening a door and reading may involve complex rituals.

The following OCD Checklist describes common obsessions and compulsions experienced by people with OCD, and includes a short questionaire which you can fill in and take with you when you see your health care professional.