People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) suffer from persistent and recurring thoughts or "obsessions" that they find very disturbing.
These thoughts typically reflect exaggerated anxiety or unrealistic fears. Sometimes people are aware that their fears are irrational, but often they are not certain.
There are many obsessions, among the most common of which are:
- Fear of being dirty or contaminated
- Fear of making mistakes
- Fear of harming one’s self or others
- Fear of being responsible for an accident or disaster
- Fear of imperfection
To cope with the distress that accompanies obsessions, people with OCD feel compelled to perform "compulsions," behaviors (or mental acts) that seem to prevent a feared catastrophe or in other ways bring relief. The relief is only temporary, however, and people with OCD usually fall into a pattern of repeatedly performing a particular compulsion.
Some common compulsions are:
- Excessive washing or cleaning
- Checking for safety or for mistakes
- Repeating everyday actions until they feel "perfect"
- Arranging objects in a particular way
- Counting or praying in a rigid, repetitive manner
- "Hoarding," or saving unnecessary objects