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What Are Some Warning Signs Of OCD? Understanding The Symptoms Of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


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Written by Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

19 Jul, 2022

We’ve all heard jokes poking fun at obsessive-compulsive disorder. Your good friend may say they’re “OCD about their car being clean” when in reality, they just enjoy a spotless vehicle to drive around in.

For those struggling with true obsessive-compulsive disorder, their reality is far more difficult than travelling in a messy car. If left untreated, OCD can become so severe, that everyday tasks can become lost in a world of strict rituals and unmanageable fears.

Compulsions and obsessions can take up a majority of a person’s day and are bound to interfere with their social relationships, jobs, and education.

So, if you feel as though you may have OCD - what are some warning signs to keep an eye out for? In order to properly seek treatment for your condition, you need to understand what’s going on inside your body and mind.

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, otherwise known as ‘OCD’, affects roughly 500,000 Australians each year. OCD is a type of anxiety disorder in which relentless and unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses take over the majority of an individual's internal dialogue. These are known as obsessions.

In addition, individuals with OCD engage in repetitive rituals that are often excessive and time-consuming. These distressing actions are known as compulsions.

Put the two together and you have a true, diagnosable obsessive-compulsive disorder. To others, it may seem irrational, but to the individual, it's completely necessary to give in to these thoughts and behaviours in order to go on with their day.

Signs and Symptoms Of Obsessions:

Obsessions are often overly exaggerated worries or concerns that most people have. However, in individuals with OCD, these fears are over the top.

In some cases, obsessions are in a constant loop within a person's mind. In other cases, these obsessions may become triggered by objects, situations, sounds, or smells. These obsessions are not logical and often lead to feelings of distress, discomfort, and panic.

  • Fear Of Contamination: These fears may include germs, dirt, and poisons, as well as physical, and environmental substances. Excessive hand washing often occurs. In some severe cases, the hand washing is so extreme their hands may begin to crack and bleed.

  • Fear Of Harm: This can be either harm from an accident, or harm in the sense of physical illness and death. These individuals may feel an extreme sense of responsibility to stay safe and may avoid any and all situations where there is even a slight possibility of being injured or falling ill.

  • Intrusive thoughts or images about sex, violence, or other issues.

  • Extravagant concern with symmetry and orderliness.

  • Extreme concerns about sickness, religious standards, and morality.

  • Disproportionate need to know and remember everything.

Individuals suffering from obsessions in OCD often go to extreme lengths to control these intrusive thoughts, images, and impulses. Nevertheless, they still are often consistently on a person’s mind, making it a losing battle.

Signs and Symptoms of Compulsions:

Compulsions are repetitive actions that stem from an individual’s obsessive thoughts. Someone suffering from OCD they may feel strong impulses to react or behave a certain way to either calm the obsessive thoughts, prevent an obsessive fear from happening, or simply make a situation ‘feel right’.

While compulsions can change in severity, there are common behaviours performed among many individuals with OCD:

  • Extreme cleanliness: showering, tooth brushing, or hand washing.

  • Non-stop cleaning of their home, household items, or food.

  • Excessively checking locks, appliances, or other items linked to safety.

  • Repetitive routine activities

  • Rigid rules for the arrangement of items such as furniture, books, clothes or other objects.

  • Touching, tapping, or moving their body a certain way, a precise number of times.

  • Constantly needing reassurance

  • Mentally repeating words or numbers an exact number of times

  • Focusing on “good” or “bad” numbers

Compulsions are essentially rituals - they follow certain rules, and regulations, and are rigid in structure. They involve consistent repetition that gives a false illusion of relief. However, these rituals reinforce the anxious thoughts - making the OCD worse.

Taking Care Of Yourself Is Key:

Living with OCD can be stressful, anxiety-provoking, and downright miserable. Feeling like you’re at constant war within your mind is exhausting.

When obsessions and compulsions arise, try to refocus your attention on a distracting activity. While it may not keep the urge at bay forever, delaying your response is a positive first step in overcoming OCD.

In addition, keeping a journal of your thoughts and behaviours can be extremely beneficial as it provides a physical way to see how irrational some of them can be.

If self-help measures aren’t helping, seeking therapy is an excellent option, you can easily find a specialist in obsessive-compulisve disorder today. There are many mental health professionals out there that want to see you thrive, and live a life free of OCD.

Compulsive (OCD) Therapists Available Now

Mona Mattar


153 Sessions




153 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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Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

Emma is an accomplished writer with a passion for mental health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology where she gained insight into why people think, feel and behave the way they do.

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