Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder  (OCD) is a mental illness characterized by a cyclical experience of obsessive behavior and compulsive acts. OCD affects people of all ages and stages of life. Obsessive behaviors are typically considered patterns of thought that become intrusive or unwanted paired with sudden urges that may or may not trigger feelings of distress. This is different from the coined "obsession or obsessed" meaning to be drawn toward or extremely familiar with. Compulsive acts are those which the person pursues in order to rid themselves of the intrusive thoughts or govern feelings of distress.

Although many people may experience obsessive thoughts or compulsion at some point in their lives, it does not follow that they are obsessive compulsives. In order for a proper diagnosis to be made, the obsessive-compulsive behavior must take place for a prolonged period of time as well as hinder the individual from being able to perform necessary, daily tasks. In some cases, OCD may reach an extreme where the person's every move is consumed by their disorder significantly impacting their mental health.

Is obsessive compulsive disorder a mental illness?

OCD is an anxiety disorder and is therefore considered a mental health disorder. It is usual for some individuals to experience a period of time where they reconsider various daily tasks. This may include reflecting on whether or not a curling iron was unplugged or if doors were locked. However, obsessive-compulsive disorder is much more than that. As an anxiety disorder, OCD affects the brain in such a way that it becomes fixated on a particular thought, idea, or image that is nearly impossible to overcome. It may result in unnatural repeated acts such as the frequent washing of hands in fear of illness or checking to see if the same door is locked multiple times in fear of an intruder. It is common for the person to not necessarily gain any consolation from their repetitive acts, but they may offer a sense of temporary relief.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder leading to the mental distress of an individual. It can vary in its manifestation and is characterized by compulsive behaviors and obsessive thoughts. The obsessions and compulsions are often unwanted and unwarranted, but become persistent and routine as they continue to fester. Oftentimes, the person with OCD will understand or acknowledge the irrationality of their beliefs and acts, yet find it difficult to separate themselves from them. Other times the people with OCD may actually believe they have a valid fear or anxiety despite harmful symptoms their disorder presents. OCD can become an overwhelming and complicated illness as the person's repetitive behaviors may affect family members, their job, their schooling, and their day to day activities.

What is OCD Behavior?

Obsessive-compulsive behaviors are commonly discussed in two categories: obsessions and compulsions.


Obsessions are repeated and pertinacious impulses, thoughts, or mental images that cause a person to feel anxious, fearful, unsafe, or disgusted. Oftentimes they are excessive and irrational. People with OCD may recognize that their obsessions are irrational and extreme, yet, they are incapable of reaching a point of clarity through reason. When particular obsessions present themselves, the individual may seek to remedy their fears or anxieties by replacing the thought of taking action. Some of the most common obsessions may include excessive worry over cleanliness and a fear of contamination, the need for symmetry and congruence, or involve thoughts which or perverse or legalistically religious (pertaining to perfectionism and fear of failure).


Compulsions are repeated acts, behaviors, or recurring thoughts associated with an obsession. When someone is experiencing compulsive behavior, they are either consciously or subconsciously driven toward the act due to their need for either perceived clarity or relief from their distress. Although compulsions originate from a place of prevention and stress reduction, they often have the opposite effect. The constant need to perform certain acts can become agonizing and increase the anxiety and fear within the individual - often it is this anguish that leads the person to acknowledge the irrationality of their obsessions. And even though the compulsion may provide temporary relief, the obsession will return restarting the cycle over and over again.

Examples of Compulsions

  • Cleaning: excessive need to rid the body or present environment of dirt, grime, germs, or even chemicals in order to prevent contamination.
  • Repeating: repetitive thoughts, actions, or speech in order to dispel anxiety.
  • Checking: Recurring actions seeking to relieve the person of their fear of danger. This may include constantly checking locks, stoves, or beauty devices in order to prevent harm, or retracing steps in order to ensure nothing has been misplaced.
  • Ordering and arranging: most often characterized by the excessive need for symmetry or correctness. This may manifest as the constant fixture of pictures, utensil placements, or the need for exactness.
  • Mental compulsions: thoughts or fixations people cling to in order to prevent other intrusive thoughts of future doom, perversion, or fears.

What are the signs of OCD in adults?

The signs and symptoms of Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are determined through an excessive dependence upon various acts and habits in order to relieve mental distress. OCD can present itself in many ways and drastically different from person to person. However, OCD is typically classified by four different types.

What are the 4 types of OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as mentioned above, is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Although considered separately, they are often inseparable when dealing with people with OCD. Typically, as someone becomes more and more uncontrollably obsessed by a particular thing, the compulsion necessarily follows. The common four types of obsessive-compulsive disorder are as follows:

Washing & Cleaning

This type of OCD patient is indicative of people who must frequently and fervently wash their hands, shower, brush their teeth, or excessively clean house repeatedly in order to relieve the fear of germs, contamination, or feelings of uncleanliness. These compulsions are typically derived from obsessions such as fear of bodily fluids, disease, germs, dirt, etc.

Arrangers & Counters

This type of OCD is an obsession with symmetry and order. Arranging obsessive-compulsive disorder commonly causes a sense of incompleteness about themselves or their surroundings. Common compulsions may include repetitive acts such as: rewriting, counting or tapping repeatedly, repeating acts in series (derived from the idea that the number of times the act is repeated is correct or ordered well); repeating names, locations, or phrases in order to prevent loss of memory, or other concerns relating to perfectionism and exactness. Oftentimes, this form of OCD can lead to fantastical beliefs: thoughts or actions prevent future harm or can cause or prevent something from taking place.


OCD patients who are categorized as checkers experience irrational and repetitive obsessiveness relating to the fear of harming others or themselves due to carelessness or negligence. The symptoms of such obsessions may result in frequent reroutes in order to ensure the person didn't harm anyone with their vehicle, checking locks or stoves to prevent harm, checking bags, purses, or attire to ensure nothing was left behind, or excessively re-reading material in order to prevent error. Frequent checking can take a toll on the person's mental health leading to excessive feelings of uncertainty, dread, guilt, or doubt.

Doubters & Sinners

OCD patients who suffer from doubt or sin obsessions may appear silly or irrational, but their symptoms are characterized by an immense and excessive fear that if their performance is less than perfect, they might be punished severely. This can derive from religious associations or beliefs regarding morality, fear of violence, or have a sexual nature. Common fears and anxieties related to doubt and sin may include: the excessive fear of mental perversion, fear of offending God, fear of intrusive thoughts regarding: sexual immorality, impulsive violence, or blasphemy. Often, there are no physical manifestations of their obsessions, but rather a mental battle for the suppression of their negative thoughts.

Treatment for OCD

Treatments for OCD include cognitive-behavioral therapies, exposure and response prevention, medication, and counseling in order to treat OCD symptoms. At Transformations, we understand that each person presents their own unique needs in order to overcome their OCD symptoms and regain their mental health. In order to provide the best care, we combine treatments that we believe will work best for our client. If you or a loved one is suffering from OCD, help is available.

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