How to Understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a disease or illness that makes people have unwanted thoughts and repeat specific behaviors. The unwanted thoughts are known as obsessions. These ideas, impulses, or images are in the person’s mind that they do not want and cannot control. Compulsions are habits or behavior; the person must do often called rituals.

In some cases, a person with the obsessive-compulsive disorder will be afraid of germs. Therefore they will need to wash their hands repeatedly; some individuals will count to a specific number before opening a door. At the same time, in children, they may be obsessed with being friends with one child so intensely that the other child may be accidentally hurt do the exaggerated attention.

How to Understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder

There are several different signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some of the most common include:

  • Fear of hurting someone or themselves
  • Fear of germs or dirt
  • disturbing sexually explicit thoughts and images
  • Disturbing violent thoughts and images
  • Fear of losing things a person needs
  • Excessive focus on moral ideas
  • Excessive focus on another person
  • Excessive focus on religion
  • Everything must be in order
  • Double-checking things like locks and switches
  • Repeatedly checking on family members to see if they are okay
  • Counting things to reduce anxiety
  • Tapping to reduce anxiety
  • Repeating certain words
  • Spending too much time washing
  • Spending too much time cleaning
  • Arranging things a specific way all the time
  • Accumulating unnecessary items such as empty food containers
  • Diagnosing the obsessive-compulsive disorder

If you or a family member have signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder, your physician will have a few medical and psychological tests and exams performed. The physical exam will be a normal check-up along with other laboratory tests such as screening for drugs and alcohol, a complete blood count, and a test of your thyroid system.


During the psychological exam, the physician will ask the person about their feelings, thoughts, and behavior patterns. The person will also need to explain their symptoms, such as when they started, if they are mild or severe if you have had other such episodes, and how these symptoms affect your life.

For the physician to diagnose a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder, they must meet a specific criterion that is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The criteria include the person:

  1. Must have obsessions or compulsions
  2. Must realize that your obsessions and compulsions are excessive or unreasonable
  3. The symptoms must interfere with their daily lives
  4. Must have recurring and constant thoughts, impulses or images that are disturbing and cause distress
  5. Tries to ignore the images or thoughts or impulses
  6. Understands the images, thoughts, or impulses are not real but are products of their mind
  7. Has repetitive behavior
  8. The behaviors are done to reduce stress

Treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder

The various treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder can vary according to the severity of the illness. In most cases, the best treatment approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy. The idea behind this approach is to teach the brain to refrain from the behavior, such as if you have to use a different fork for each item on your plate, you will be given only one fork to eat your meal.

Another example would be a person that must wash their hands when touching any item. They will be asked to pick up a pen and then will not be allowed to wash their hands. Other treatments can include medications, but usually, the best treatment is various types of counseling and therapy.