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What Are the Symptoms of OCD?


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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition characterized by particular symptoms that affect both mind and body.

Do I Have OCD? 

You might ask yourself this question if others have suggested it to you, after seeing a depiction of OCD in the media, or if you find yourself performing actions repeatedly to soothe your distress.  

As with any mental health condition, it’s important to recognize early signs so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Common OCD Symptoms

True to its name, OCD involves obsessions (persistent, intrusive disturbing thoughts and fears) and compulsions (rituals that are performed to alleviate anxiety). It is normal to obsess about something from time to time or engage in some level of compulsive behavior, but when those things begin to intensely disrupt your everyday life, it may be a sign of OCD.

Obsessions

Obsessions can be worries, urges, doubts, fears, mental images, fantasies, or other kinds of distressing thoughts. These thoughts are very persistent in OCD patients, keeping them in a near-constant state of anxiety or disgust.

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Obsessions can be graphically violent or otherwise taboo in nature, which can cause feelings of shame and prevent OCD sufferers from reaching out for help or sharing their experiences. However, it’s important to know that these obsessions are not true reflections of someone’s character and very rarely acted upon.

Common OCD obsessions include:

  • Fear of germs, bacteria, or disease, including contaminating others
  • Obsession with order, cleanliness, and symmetry — keeping everything “just right”
  • Fear of losing control — disaster will strike if you cannot maintain control of your environment or situation
  • Failing to protect or care for others when they need you
  • Magical thinking and superstition — obsessing over what is lucky or unlucky
  • Intrusive sexual or violent thoughts

Compulsions

These are repetitive behaviors that the OCD patient feels the need to act out in order to reduce anxiety triggered by obsessions. For some people, these rituals can take hours, interfering with work schedules or social activities.

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OCD sufferers are usually aware that their compulsions are irrational, but are too desperate for relief to resist the urge. What’s worse, this relief doesn’t always last long and leaves the patient feeling trapped in a cycle. 

OCD compulsions can include:

  • Excessive washing of hands or household objects
  • Repeatedly checking that doors and windows are securely locked
  • Touching or organizing things in a particular order
  • Repeating a word, phrase or sequence of numbers, mentally or out loud
  • Checking your body for signs of uncleanliness or illness
  • Repeatedly asking others if they are safe, or to reassure you that you are safe

Related Symptoms

Fear of triggering OCD symptoms can cause avoidant behavior, in which the person refuses to leave their home or comfort zone. The emotional stress of coping with OCD can also lead to depression; about two-thirds of OCD patients experience a major depressive episode at some point in their lives(1).

Effective Treatment for OCD 

If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek mental health treatment. One non-invasive treatment for OCD that is gaining traction is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), an FDA-approved procedure that uses magnetic pulses to target the brain areas associated with OCD and has been proven to help patients find relief from their symptoms.

Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry offers both therapy and TMS for OCD. To take the first steps toward getting help with your symptoms and finding relief from OCD, contact us online or call (212) 731-2033.


Resources

  1. Pallanti S, Grassi G, Sarrecchia ED, Cantisani A, Pellegrini M. Obsessive-compulsive disorder comorbidity: clinical assessment and therapeutic implications. Front Psychiatry. 2011;2:70. Link. Accessed April 2, 2023.
Dr. David Woo

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.


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