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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Silver Hill Hospital

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition that affects millions of children, adolescents and adults. Those with OCD experience uncontrollable, reocurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. The obsessions cause significant anxiety and the compulsions are repetitive behaviors or rituals that the person develops in response to the obsession; an effort to soothe the anxiety. People who have OCD often realize their thoughts and behaviors are irrational, but feel like they have no control over them.

Common Obsessions

According to Psychology Today, the five most common obsessions are:

  1. Fear of germs, dirt and contamination
  2. Fear of harm (worrying doors aren’t locked or stove will cause a fire)
  3. Concern for order and symmetry
  4. Obsessed with body or physical symptoms (worried about illness/disease)
  5. Unwanted religious beliefs, fear of going to hell

Other common obsessions include:

  • Irrational fear of causing harm to others or being responsible for a tragic event by not being careful
  • Overly concerned with losing or forgetting things
  • Unwanted sexual thoughts
  • Excessive concern with right and wrong
  • Superstitious beliefs

Common Compulsions

  • Excessive hand washing, showering/bathing, cleaning
  • Obsessive checking (door locks, stove, electrical outlets)
  • Repeating activities, phrases, movements, and repeating behaviors multiples times (knock on the door three times, tap something two times, etc.)
  • Counting
  • Ordering items in a specific way
  • Saying certain words or phrases

We all double check our door locks or our suitcases for important items, but when do thoughts and behaviors cross the line into a diagnosis of OCD? If your daily life is significantly impaired, you have trouble going to work or feel like your quality of life is being negatively impacted, it’s time for a consultation with a mental health professional. It’s also important to know that OCD often co-occurs with other conditions such as depression, eating disorders or body dysmorphic disorder. Without proper treatment, OCD will only worsen over time.


The good news OCD is treatable. A combination of medication and psychotherapy are often successful in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. A type of cognitive behavioral therapy that is particularly useful for treating OCD is called exposure response therapy (ERT). Under the supervision of a trained professional, a person exposes themselves to thoughts, images or situations that trigger the obsessions and then learn how to respond without giving in to the typical compulsive behaviors.

Helpful Resources