How are obsessions and compulsions categorized in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Updated: May 17, 2018
  • Author: William M Greenberg, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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At some point during the course of the disorder, the person recognizes that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable (although this does not apply to children).

The obsessions or compulsions cause marked distress, are time consuming (take >1 hour per day), or significantly interfere with the person's normal routine, occupational or academic functioning, or usual social activities or relationships.

Obsessions and their related compulsions (the latter also referred to as rituals) often fall into 1 or more of several common categories, as seen in the table below.

Table. Categorizing Obsessions and Compulsions (Open Table in a new window)


Commonly Associated Compulsions

Fear of contamination

Washing, cleaning

Need for symmetry, precise arranging

Ordering, arranging, balancing, straightening until "just right"

Unwanted sexual or aggressive thoughts or images

Checking, praying, “undoing” actions, asking for reassurance

Doubts (eg, gas jets off, doors locked)

Repeated checking behaviors

Concerns about throwing away something valuable


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