Medusa - CaravaggioWhen you worry frequently about things that are outside of your control, or you must have everything in your life organized perfectly, you may start to wonder if you need to see an OCD specialist. While anxiety does not mean that you have OCD, there are signs of OCD that are very difficult to ignore. What is important to remember is that OCD signs and symptoms are on a spectrum. While you may exhibit some signs, it is the degree of prevalence in your life that matters most.

For those experiencing primarily mental obsessions, it is difficult to dismiss a random weird thought as non-sufferers do. Individuals with mental obsessions and compulsions will try to pick apart their thoughts in order to figure them out and resist them. They will also try to figure out why their thoughts don’t match their self-image. They can spend hours scrutinizing the answers. It doesn’t matter how long they search through their mind for reassurance or how long it takes them to find the answer on the Internet. The answers will not satisfy the uncertainty they experience.

In short, there are two conditions in the OCD experience: the obsessions (thoughts the individual has) and the compulsions (what the person does in order to decrease the anxiety he or she is experiencing). This is where the misunderstanding occurs. For example, you may guess or believe a friend has OCD when she compulsively washes or cleans. You may think a relative has OCD when he excessively checks the locks, stoves, and appliances to ensure there won’t be a fire or a robbery. Repetitive rituals such as rereading or rewriting and counting are also types of OCD most people recognize. But what about those who have obsessions, and neutralize the initial disturbing thought with a thought that relieves anxiety? Do they have OCD? Yes, but many people misunderstand what OCD is and believe the compulsions need to be obvious, which can lead to confusion and misdiagnosis.

Your therapist will provide you with a complete Obsessive Concerns Checklist1 and a Compulsive Activities Checklist for a thorough assessment. Meanwhile, consider the following list:

Some Common Obsessions:

 Aggressive Obsessions such as:

  • Actively harming yourself or others intentionally
  • Blurting out obscenities or insults
  • Acting out in antisocial ways in public
  • Acting on impulses to rob, steal from, take advantage of, or cheat others
  • Deliberately hoping that others will have accidents, become ill, or die

Sexual Obsessions

  • Forbidden or perverse thoughts, images or impulses
  • Acting sexually toward others
or doubts about possibly having done so
  • Sex with children or/and animals
  • Being homosexual or acting homosexually
  • Sex with religious figures or celebrities

Contamination Obsessions

  • Bodily waste or secretions
  • Dirt or grime, germs, viruses, or sticky substances
  • Environmental contaminants, household chemicals, or poisonous gases
  • Spreading illness to, or contaminating others
  • Being contaminated by thoughts of harm happening to yourself or others

Religious Obsessions

  • Being deliberately sinful or blasphemous
  • Doubtful thoughts as to whether you acted sinfully or blasphemously in the past
  • Fears of having acted sinfully or unethically
  • Doubting your faith or beliefs
  • Unacceptable thoughts about religious figures, religion, or deities
  • Thoughts of being possessed
  • Thoughts of having to be perfectly religious

Obsessions Of Harm, Danger, Loss, Or Embarrassment

  • Having an accident, illness or being injured
 to self or others
  • Accidentally losing control and harming others
  • Causing harm to others through your own negligence or carelessness, or through your own thoughts
  • Your own mortality
or the mortality of your family and friends
  • Your children not being your own

Superstitious Or Magical Obsessions

  • Having bad luck (self or to someone else)
  • Lucky or unlucky colors, objects or possessions
  • The possibility that thinking or hearing of bad events can make them occur to yourself or others
  • Certain words, names, or images being able to cause bad luck. Certain actions or behaviors being able to cause bad luck
  • Being possessed
  • The need to perform certain activities a special number of times

Health And Body-Focused Obsessions

  • Parts of your body are ugly or disfigured in some way
  • Your body has scars or marks
  • A part of your body does not work properly or functions differently than it used to
  • Parts of your body are asymmetrical, too large or too small
  • You will choke or vomit accidentally
  • Clothing does not fit certain parts of your body correctly (too loose or too tight)
  • You have brain damage or your mental faculties are impaired
  • You have undiagnosed serious illnesses.

Perfectionistic Obsessions

  • Questioning whether you have said, done, or thought certain things perfectly
  • Questioning whether others perfectly understand what you have said
  • Wanting to do, think, or say everything (or certain things) perfectly
  • Wanting to have a perfect appearance
  • Questioning whether you have told the truth perfectly
  • Making or keeping your home or possessions perfectly clean or pristine
  • Ordering things or making them symmetrical
  • Wanting to know everything about a specific subject or topic
  • Perfectly understanding what you have read
  • Perfectly communicating your thoughts through writing

Neutral Obsessions

  • Sounds, words, or music
  • Nonsense or trivial images
  • Counting for no special reason
  • Repetitive questions for which there are no answers or which are unimportant
  • The excessive awareness of your own thought processes
  • The awareness of specific things in your environment (sounds, colors, objects, etc.)
  • Excessive awareness of normal body functioning (breathing, eyes blinking, heart, etc.)

If you or someone you love appears to have any of these worries and obsess about them, we encourage you to find a specialist who will conduct a thorough assessment and provide specific treatment for the type of OCD you or your loved one struggles with at this time.

Remember, you may have OCD but your life is not OCD. You can learn skills to help you get back to enjoying life and focus on what you value most.

1 From Freedom From Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty by Jonathan Grayson. Berkely/Penguin Press. NY. 2003. Adapted and Modified from Obsessive- Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide to Getting Well And Staying Well by Fred Penzel.