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Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Symptoms of OCD are:

  • Obsessions—unwanted ideas, impulses, or images that repeat often.
  • Compulsions—repeated behaviors or mental acts. They are often done to lower anxiety or distress caused by obsessions.

People with OCD know their thoughts and behaviors do not make sense. Most would like to avoid or stop them but OCD makes this very hard.

Common obsessions include:

  • Regular and intense fears that harm may come to them or a loved one
  • Intense and unfounded concern about becoming contaminated
  • Extreme concern about safety
  • Improper religious, violent, or sexual thoughts
  • Very intense need to do things perfectly

Common compulsions include:

  • Checking door locks, stoves, water faucets, light switches, over and over and over
  • Repeated list making, counting, arranging, or aligning things
  • Collecting and hoarding useless objects
  • Repeating habits a specific number of times until it feels just right
  • Re-reading and re-writing more often than needed
  • Repeating phrases in their head
  • Hand washing repeatedly

Most people with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions. Some only have one or the other. Many with OCD are ashamed of their disorder. This may prevent them from talking to their doctor and getting help.


  • About OCD. International OCD Foundation website. Available at: https://iocdf.org/about-ocd.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml.


  • Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.