Obsessions and Compulsions
- Thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again and feel out of the person's control.
- The person does not want to have these ideas.
- He or she finds them disturbing and unwanted, and usually know that they don't make sense.
- They come with uncomfortable feelings, such as fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is "just right."
- They take a lot of time and get in the way of important activities the person values.
What Obsessions Are Not:
- It is normal to have occasional thoughts about getting sick or about the safety of loved ones.
- Repetitive behaviors or thoughts that a person engages in to neutralize, counteract, or make their obsessions go away.
- People with OCD realize this is only a temporary solution, but without a better way to cope, they rely on the compulsion as a temporary escape.
- Compulsions can also include avoiding situations that trigger obsessions.
- Compulsions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values.
What Compulsions Are Not:
Click here for a list of some Common Compulsions in OCD.
- Not all repetitive behaviors or "rituals" are compulsions. For example, bedtime routines, religious practices, and learning a new skill involve repeating an activity over and over again, but are a welcome part of daily life.
- Behaviors depend on the context: Arranging and ordering DVDs for eight hours a day isn't a compulsion if the person works in a video store.
Common Obsessions in OCD1
- Body fluids (examples: urine, feces)
- Germs/disease (examples: herpes, HIV)
- Environmental contaminants (examples: asbestos, radiation)
- Household chemicals (examples: cleaners, solvents)
Obsessions Related to Perfectionism
- Fear of being responsible for something terrible happening (examples: fire, burglary)
- Fear of harming others because of not being careful enough (example: dropping something on the ground that might cause someone to slip and hurt him/herself)
- Concern about evenness or exactness
- Concern with a need to know or remember
- Fear of losing or forgetting important information when throwing something out
- Inability to decide whether to keep or to discard things
- Fear of losing things
|Unwanted Sexual Thoughts
Religious Obsessions (Scrupulosity)
- Forbidden or perverse sexual thoughts or images
- Forbidden or perverse sexual impulses about others
- Obsessions about homosexuality
- Sexual obsessions that involve children or incest
- Obsessions about aggressive sexual behavior towards others
- Concern with offending God, or concern about blasphemy.
- Excessive concern with right/wrong or morality.
- Concern with getting a physical illness or disease (not by contamination e.g., cancer)
- Superstitious ideas about lucky/unlucky numbers, certain colors
Common Compulsions in OCD1
|Washing and Cleaning
- Washing hands excessively or in a certain way
- Excessive showering, bathing, tooth brushing, grooming or toilet routines
- Cleaning household items or other objects excessively
- Doing other things to prevent or remove contact with contaminants
- Checking that you did not/will not harm others
- Checking that you did not/will not harm yourself
- Checking that nothing terrible happened
- Checking that you did not make a mistake
- Checking some parts of your physical condition or body
- Rereading or rewriting
- Repeating routine activities (examples: going in or out doors, getting up or down from chairs)
- Repeating body movements (example: tapping, touching, blinking)
- Repeating activities in "multiples" (examples: doing a task three times because three is a "good", "right", "safe" number)
- Mental review of events to prevent harm (to oneself, others, to prevent terrible consequences)
- Praying to prevent harm (to oneself, others, to prevent terrible consequences)
- Counting while performing a task to end on a "good", "right", or "safe" number
- "Cancelling" or "Undoing" (example: replacing a "bad" word with a "good" word to cancel it out)
- Collecting items which results in significant clutter in the home (also called hoarding)
- Putting things in order or arranging things until it "feels right"
- Telling, asking, or confessing to get reassurance
- Avoiding situations that might trigger your obsessions
Reprinted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. This is an adaptation of the OC Checklist which appears in S. Wilhelm and G. S. Steketee's, "Cognitive Therapy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Guide for Professionals" (2006). www.newharbinger.com Download a Copy of our "What You Need to Know About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" brochure.
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