7 Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
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When you’re feeling nervous or anxious, your mind can start racing. People often develop habits or coping mechanisms, conscious or unconscious, to reduce those rapid thoughts and uncertain feelings. However, if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, coping strategies can quickly disrupt your everyday life. 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that can make it difficult to carry out your daily responsibilities and maintain relationships. As with all mental health disorders, OCD symptoms can vary in terms of frequency, severity and overt presentation. Mild symptoms may be dismissed as “perfectionistic” tendencies. Left untreated, OCD symptoms become more distressing and disruptive to daily life. It’s important to be aware of symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder so that you can seek proper treatment.

We’ll talk about the difference between OCD compulsions and obsessions. Then we’ll discuss symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as how process-based therapy can help.

What are obsessive-compulsive disorder compulsions and obsessions?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health condition characterized by persistent, intrusive, unwanted thoughts/images (obsessions) that cause significant anxiety/distress. Individuals engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsions) in an effort to self-soothe/reduce anxiety.

Compulsions are repetitive, and often excessive, behaviors that individuals feel obligated to perform in hopes of alleviating or preventing anxious thoughts and feelings associated with obsessions. Another unconscious thought will make you feel the need to perform it again. Anxiety is a key component of the OCD cycle.


Common OCD compulsions include:

  • Cleaning/washing
  • Counting
  • Checking
  • Organizing

Common OCD obsessions include:

7 symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder

OCD impacts different people differently due to a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Here are seven symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder:

  • Carrying out rituals — OCD compulsions can cause you to perform ritualistic tasks to temporarily soothe anxiety. An example is walking into every room and turning every light on and off before leaving the house
  • Having rigid routines — People with OCD tend to have inflexible routines that cause anxiety if they are interrupted. For example, if your OCD compulsions make you compelled to wash your hands multiple times after a certain activity, you may feel anxious if you’re in a public place that doesn’t have a sink nearby
  • Excessive amounts of time each day carrying out compulsions — The repetitive nature of OCD compulsions can cause you to spend an extended period of time on the same task. It can interfere with completing other responsibilities in a timely manner. If you’re spending 10 minutes reorganizing your desk every morning at work, it can affect your ability to meet deadlines.
  • Uncontrollable urges to carry out an action — The thing about OCD is that it makes you have unconscious thoughts that compel you to complete an action, regardless of the reasoning. It makes you think, “I have to do this and then I’ll feel better.” The compulsions can make you feel out of control with your own body and mind.
  • Repetitive thoughts that you’re unable to control — We all have unconscious thoughts. But OCD causes these thoughts to repeat themselves. It can be difficult to think of anything else when there’s a word, phrase or image continuously popping into your mind. It can also feel impossible to shut it down.
  • Isolating from others to avoid compulsion triggers — There are many ways that your OCD compulsions can be triggered, such as seeing an object that you need to touch repeatedly or dirt on a person’s counter that you feel compelled to clean, even though it’s not your home. For some people with OCD, it seems easier to isolate away from others in order to resist carrying out compulsions in front of others due to triggers.
  • Difficulty handling change or uncertainty — OCD demands routines and certainty, causing you to carry out compulsive tasks “just in case.” When you’re experiencing change or uncertainty, OCD can make you feel overwhelming anxiety due to the idea of lacking control of potential outcomes or consequences.

By learning about these and other symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, you can gain a better understanding of the emotions, thoughts and behaviors you’re experiencing. If you or a loved one are struggling with intrusive, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors such as the ones described above, it’s important to know that you are worthy of help and hope. A better understanding of OCD symptoms can help you as you can talk with a mental health care provider about your OCD and the best course of action for treatment.

A process-based approach to OCD treatment

People with OCD may fear letting go of their coping mechanisms, or not be aware that there’s even a problem. Without treatment, OCD symptoms can gradually worsen or become more severe, with behaviors becoming normalized over time. individuals with OCD often come to see their compulsive behaviors/rituals/routines as normal or necessary for managing anxiety. They may view their coping mechanisms as problematic.

OCD isn’t curable, but it can be manageable. Treatment is more effective when delivered early. When you’re treated for a mental health disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder, it’s important that you’re treated as a whole person, not just your OCD symptoms. That’s why, at Lightfully, we use process-based therapy, or PBT, as our clinical model. It’s incorporated into every program we offer.

PBT allows us to provide you with a holistic approach to your OCD. We can focus on your current symptoms as well as your long-term mental health goals.

Explore obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment programs with Lightfully Behavioral Health 

OCD symptoms can make it feel like it’s impossible to direct your own thoughts and actions. The longer OCD goes untreated, the more ingrained intrusive thoughts, obsessions and compulsions can become. But with treatment and support, you can gain the life skills and resilience you need not only to cope with OCD symptoms but to thrive.

The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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