OCD is an anxiety disorder that can be seen in both children and adults. Anxiety can be caused by any number of issues. For some, when the root of the anxiety is relieved, the obsessions and/or compulsions decrease or go away. Others need therapy that focuses on changing the behaviors. And, others report relief only after the introduction of medication. What follows is a list of the types of obsessions and compulsive behavior seen in the disorder as described in The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing (pages 223-225) by Judith Rapoport.
Agressive Obsessions: Fear of harming others, fear of harming self, violent or horrific images, fear of blurting out obscenities or insults, fear of doing something embarrassing, fear of acting on criminal impulses (e.g., shop-lifting, robbing bank), fear of being held responsible for something going wrong, fear that something terrible might happen (e.g., fire, death or relative or friend)
Contamination Obsessions: Concern or disgust with body wastes or secretions (urine, feces, saliva), concern with dirt or germs, excessive concern about chemical or environmental contamination
Sexual Obsessions: Forbidden or perverse thoughts or images (involving children, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, etc.)
Obsession with a need for symmetry, exactness, or order
Miscellaneous Obsessions: Fear of not saying things exactly right, intrusive (neutral) images, e.g. mental image of a cat, intrusive nonsense sound, words, or music, lucky/unlucky numbers, colors with specific significance
Somatic obsession-compulsion: Preoccupation with part of the body, e.g., ears too large
Counting complusions: Having to count over and over to a certain number
Checking compulsions: Checking doors, locks, brakes, etc.
Repeating rituals: Going in/out doors, up/down from chair, etc.
Ordering/Arranging Compulsions: Packing and unpacking a suitcase, rearranging drawers
Hoarding/Collecting compulsions: Saving old newspapers, mail, string, wrapping paper
Miscellaneous compulsions: Need to tell, ask, or confess, need to touch, measure
You might wonder what sets apart the disorder from quirky behavior and it is this: If you like to recheck that you locked your front door, that doesn’t mean you have a disorder. But, if you spend hours each day on various compulsions, that becomes more diagnostic. They would need to be further investigated for how often they occur, how much they interfere with daily life and how difficult they are to resist.
David Sedaris, author and humorist, writes about his life and has described his own struggles with OCD in a very real and often funny way. Have a listen. I couldn’t find a better audio or visual but here he is in an exerpt from his book, “Naked.”