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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Symptoms

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic or long-term illness. Without treatment, symptoms typically come and go over time and may significantly interfere with your ability to work and have a family. Treatment can reduce the severity of the illness. And although some symptoms may linger after treatment, you should be able to have an active social life, raise a family, and work.

Anxiety is the most prominent symptom of OCD. For example, you may have an overall sense that something terrible will happen if you don't follow through with a particular ritual, such as repeatedly checking to see whether the stove is on. If you don't perform the ritual, you may have immediate anxiety or a nagging sense of incompleteness.

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Symptoms of OCD vary with each person and include the following:

Obsessive thoughts

  • Fear of dirt or germs or overconcern about body smells/secretions or the proper functioning of the body
  • Overconcern with order, neatness, and exactness
  • Fear of thinking bad thoughts or doing something embarrassing
  • Constantly thinking of certain sounds, words, or numbers, or a preoccupation with counting or checking
  • Constant need for approval or the need to apologize
  • Fear that something terrible will happen or fear of harming yourself or someone else

Compulsive behaviors

  • Frequently washing hands, showering, or brushing teeth or overusing items to hide body smells
  • Constantly cleaning, straightening, and ordering certain objects
  • Repeatedly checking zippers and buttons on clothing
  • Checking lights, appliances, or doors again and again to be sure they are turned off or closed
  • Repeating certain physical activities, such as sitting down and getting up from a chair
  • Hoarding objects, such as newspapers
  • Asking the same question or saying the same thing over and over
  • Avoiding public places or taking extreme measures to prevent harm to yourself or others
  • Religious rituals, such as constant silent praying

It is common for children with OCD to need to repeat actions until they feel "just right," such as going back and forth through a door, going up and down stairs, touching things with their right hand and then their left (symmetrical touch), or rereading or rewriting school assignments. Children with OCD may not want to go to school or may be afraid to leave someone they trust.

You may experience suicidal feelings if you have depression along with OCD. Warning signs of suicide include talking about death or giving away possessions.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 05, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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