When most people think of OCD, they envision hand washing, extreme organization, and ridiculously clean kitchens.

Many don’t realize that a person can have a messy, disorganized life and still be suffering from crippling OCD. In fact, some cases Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be almost invisible.

OCD is a disorder with two components: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are defined as thoughts, images or impulses that occur repeatedly, outside of an individual’s control. People with OCD find obsessions intrusive and disturbing. In most cases, OCD sufferers are aware that their obsessive, intrusive thoughts don’t make any sense.  Obsessions can be any persistent thoughts, images or impulses that are unwanted and cause distress.

Here are some common obsessions:

Harming self or others

  • Fear of harming self or others by not being careful enough
  • Fear of being responsible for something terrible

Losing control

  • Fear of acting on an impulse
  • Fear of violent images in one’s mind
  • Fear of cursing uncontrollably
  • Fear of committing crimes or violent acts

Contamination by

  • Bodily fluids
  • Germs
  • Disease
  • Chemicals

Sexual obsessions

  • Fear of being a pedophile
  • Forbidden sexual thoughts or images
  • Fear of being homosexual

Religious (Scrupulosity)

  • Fear of upsetting God


  • Concern with balance or evenness
  • Fear of forgetting important information

Compulsions are behaviors or thoughts the sufferer uses to neutralize, combat or reduce the intensity of the obsession. This only provides temporary relief, however, and compulsions become repetitive and time consuming to ward off the intense caused by obsessions.

Common Types of Compulsions:


  • Excessive hand washing
  • Excessive showering or grooming
  • Going to great lengths to prevent contact with contaminants


  • Checking doors to ensure they are locked
  • Checking to make sure a mistake was not made
  • Driving around the block again to ensure the pothole was not a person you hit


  • Doing a behavior over and over (ex: tapping, touching, bumping)
  • Saying a phrase multiple times
  • Repeating a routine

Mental Compulsions

  • Counting
  • Praying compulsively to prevent harm
  • Replaying a conversation or experience to check for traces of obsession (ex: mentally reviewing a conversation to ensure you did not say something sexual)
  • Rehearsing a conversation to get it just right


  • This could include avoiding anything related to the obsession (ex: will not go in the kitchen for fear of accidentally causing harm with knives)

These are just a few of the most common obsessions and compulsions. An OCD sufferer may have only one or two of these or they may have many. A person’s primary obsessions and compulsions may change over the course of a lifetime.

It is important to keep in mind many of these thoughts or behaviors occur commonly in people without OCD. In an OCD sufferer, they are extremely time consuming and anxiety provoking and eventually inhibit functioning.

Help is available for sufferers of OCD. Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) is the leading form of treatment for OCD. EMDR, Mindfulness, and Yoga Therapy may also be helpful in the treatment process.

If you or someone you know is suffering from OCD, we encourage you to seek help. OCD is often treatable and manageable. For help with OCD and related disorders, call 214.357.4001 today.