Question: What are the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder?
Answer: Obsessions are intrusive and persistent thoughts and images that cause anxiety. Compulsive behaviors are repetitive behaviors in response to the obsessions and aimed at reducing the anxiety. The OCD symptoms need to be pretty time consuming -- so at least an hour per day -- and they cause a pretty significant impairment in social functioning, self care, routines, work and occupational functioning. Examples of OCD are contamination fears -- where people are worried about germs or getting a disease, and the kinds of compulsive behaviors they would engage in are excessive washing or showering; they might do excessive cleaning or avoiding touching surfaces that they think might be contaminated, or going into areas that might be contaminated.
Other examples of OCD would be people that excessively check -- so they check their door locks to make sure that they're not unlocked so that someone doesn't break into their house, or they will go back and repeatedly check the stove to make sure that it isn't going to burn the house down. This isn't checking once or twice, this is checking for multiple times that can be very time consuming, like I said up to an hour per day.
Other kinds of OCD could be compulsive hoarding -- where you're collecting possessions, not getting rid of things, worried that something might happen if you get rid of something or worried about what might happen if you don't have that possession in the future. Scrupulosity is a form of OCD in which your OCD has invaded your religious practice, so you're excessively worried about your relationship to God, or going to hell. These are concerns and worries that are out of proportion and out of the kind of norm in your faith-based community.
Perfectionism is another type of OCD in which you become worried about doing things the right way, or following a rule, and so you'll repeat things, go back and re-edit things. You have a hard time finishing projects because you want to get them done the right way. You might repeat and reorder and arrange things so that they look or feel the right way. Finally there's a subtype of OCD in which people are worried about the experience of an intrusive violent or sexual thoughts or images and that they'll go to great length to avoid situations that might evoke those thoughts or images, or they might do something like thought suppression or other kinds of mental compulsions to get rid of those obsessions.
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