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Mental Health Center

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Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

A person with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may have obsessive thoughts, compulsive behavior, or both.

Symptoms of obsessions include:

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  • Having involuntary and persistent thoughts that appear to be senseless (such as an overwhelming fear of dirt or persistent worry about a past event) and cause anxiety or distress
  • Knowing that these thoughts come from one's own imagination, not from outside factors (except in children) but still unable to control the thoughts

Symptoms of compulsions include:

  • Repetitive acts such as hand washing, checking and rechecking locks or electrical appliances, cleaning and recleaning, preoccupation with symmetry or repeating words. These acts may be mental behaviors such as counting or praying.
  • Recognition that the repetitive behavior is excessive or unreasonable (this may not be true for children).
  • Depression and distress as attempts to deal with compulsions fail.

Symptoms of OCD in Children:

  • Mute behavior with agitation
  • Gradual decline in schoolwork, secondary to impaired concentration
  • Withdrawal and social isolation accompanied by preoccupations with irrational concerns
  • Mood swings from anxiety to despair
  • Ritualistic or compulsive behaviors as noted above

See Your Doctor About OCD If:

You are experiencing some of the OCD symptoms listed above, seek help from a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.

If your child is anxious or depressed or has excessive fears of aggression, sexual behavior, contamination, or disorderliness, seek help from your child's health care provider or a mental health professional.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 27, 2015

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