OCD: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment


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Written by Sandy Glover

Master in Mental Health Counselling

02 Aug, 2022

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is defined as a disorder of repetitive actions that seem impossible to stop. It is one of the more challenging disorders, as it often dictates how an individual may think, act, or feel, causing significant distress. OCD can be debilitating and disrupt daily functioning, such as work, school, or relationships. However, it is treatable; therefore, you can regain your power with the proper treatment and support.

OCD Signs and Symptoms

Individuals with signs and symptoms of OCD experience intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and perform ritualistic behaviours (compulsions) to decrease unwanted thoughts. However, attempting to avoid obsessions will only increase one's anxiety.

For example, when an individual performs compulsive acts to reduce their obsessions, such as repeatedly washing their hands, it creates the opposite effect, thus increasing ritualistic behaviours.

Although most individuals have both obsessions and compulsions, they can also experience one or the other alone.

The intensity of OCD symptoms varies from mild to severe and can come on gradually or rapidly. Still, there are common themes.

Obsessive themes include:

  • Difficulty with uncertainty

  • Fear of contamination

  • Needing things in an orderly and symmetrical fashion

  • Intrusive thoughts of self-harm or harming others

  • Disturbing violent, sexual, or religious thoughts and images

OCD signs and symptoms include:

  • Excessively washing hands or body; fear of shaking others' hands or touching germ-infested objects

  • Constantly checking expiration dates for food contamination

  • Replaying a situation or event in one's mind over and over

  • Tapping on objects a set number of times until it feels just right

  • Repeatedly checking if the stove is off, the doors are locked, or the alarm clock has been set

  • Disturbing and unwanted violent, sexual, or religious thoughts and images

  • Intrusive thoughts of lashing out and acting absurdly or shouting obscenities

  • Intense anxiety if everything isn't perfectly symmetrical; facing labels forward or lining up items by size

Individuals with OCD symptoms tend to be highly intelligent and recognise that these thoughts or behaviours are not rational or realistic. Still, the anxiety prevents them from stopping it altogether.

OCD and Risk Factors

The exact cause of OCD symptoms has not been conclusive, but some theories exist.

Theories include:

  • Family history. Individuals are more at risk if their parents or other family members live with OCD.

  • Stressful live events. If you have suffered from any specific trauma or terrible event, it may increase the likelihood of OCD.

  • Environmental factors. Certain infections such as streptococcus can increase the chances of OCD.

  • Brain biology or function. Scientists have found a correlation between OCD and chemical changes in the brain or structural abnormalities.

  • Other mental health disorders. Individuals with OCD often have other mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

Although there is still speculation about what causes OCD, having some sense of measure can be essential in treating the disorder therapeutically.

OCD and Complications

Everyone has a little touch of obsessive-compulsive traits in them. Maybe they click their car remote twice to ensure the door is locked or check the emergency brake more than once for safety reasons. Ultimately, these car scenarios are not uncommon; therefore, the individual is healthily addressing these situations or circumstances.

In contrast, individuals with severe OCD symptoms can't stop checking their locks or washing their hands once or twice – they have to check repeatedly and still don't find comfort. Unfortunately, this severity level can affect one's overall health and well-being and create significant complications.

Examples of complications include:

If your OCD symptoms have reached this level of severity, it would be best to seek treatment.

OCD and Seeking Treatment

Many individuals feel embarrassed and ashamed of their OCD symptoms and often avoid treatment altogether. However, there is nothing wrong with seeking help.

OCD is not a character flaw, as millions of individuals live with it. Therefore, you are not alone.

Some individuals may not seek treatment for OCD symptoms because it doesn't affect their daily routines. However, you don't want to go it alone if it disrupts your life and negatively impacts everything around you.

Having a therapist who can provide the necessary tools can be tremendously beneficial, and they can teach you particular skills you may not have thought of and work with you on these tasks together.

A therapist will also teach you how to perform the skills you've learned in sessions at home, as it's crucial to work on them throughout to decrease your OCD symptoms.

For further assistance in finding a therapist, speak with a therapist who is qualified to speak and help you with your OCD.

OCD and Prevention

There's no one way to prevent OCD. Still, learning about your condition, becoming familiar with the warning signs, finding a support group, and seeking treatment as quickly as possible can improve your quality of life. No longer does OCD have to prohibit you from getting through your daily routines.

Compulsive (OCD) Therapists Available Now

Mona Mattar


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120 Sessions

I am an experienced Clinical Counsellor and Psychotherapist working in private hospital settings and private practice with a special interest in eating disorders, substan...More

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Sandy Glover

Master in Mental Health Counselling

Sandy has a master's degree in mental health counselling. Initially, she worked as a therapist but shifted her focus to the peer field and is now presenting at inpatient facilities.

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