Recognizing and understanding the signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are the first steps to helping a loved one living with this mental disorder. OCD often receives the cliché of maintaining cleanliness for fear of contamination. Whereas this may be a relevant symptom, there is a lot more that goes into it. At its core, OCD is the obsessive fear of the unknown and compulsive actions are a way to justify control over the unknown, mentally.

Obsessions: Individuals living with OCD commonly have unrelenting obsessive thoughts and behaviors that creep into the mind and are difficult to get rid of. Unwanted and unrelenting mental images or urges are signs of compulsive thoughts that can interfere with daily life and cause anxiety to the individual. These obsessions can be particular to the person living with this illness, but there are many that overlap from patient to patient.

Compulsions: Control is a powerful trait of humanity. To be in control of one’s behaviors, actions, and outcomes creates a peace of mind for those that may feel threatened otherwise. Historically, control is either the goal of the action or the main piece to reach the goal. As aforementioned, people living with OCD live in a constant state of mind that they are not in control. Compulsions are the action of mentally maintaining control. Without this perceived control, the obsessions may take hold in a larger and more significant way.

Obsessions and compulsions can be minor, evolve to harmful and life-threatening situations, and everything in between. Here is a small list of common obsessions along with the compulsions that often overlap with people diagnosed with OCD:

  • O: Fear of contamination
    • C: Repetitive washing, cleaning, and sanitizing.
  • O: Being unsure if the car was locked, if the lights are on, and if the stove has been turned off
    • C: Constantly and repeatedly checking multiple times to ensure actions were taken to complete the desired result of locking the door, turning the lights of, and turning the stove off.
  • O: Needing things in an orderly manner
    • C: Tidying and rearranging everything from books to the food pantry to fit their symmetrical needs.
  • O: Intrusive thoughts of guilt or self-blame
    • C: Making sure to avoid people or situations that may bring on thoughts of shame or worthlessness. This may also result in strained relationships.
  • O: Thought of self-harm or suicide (Often referred to as self-harm OCD)
    • C: Unfortunately, self-harm OCD can take the life of an OCD patient if sever enough. Individuals living with suicidal ideation should receive professional medical help immediately.


People living with OCD should speak to their medical professional to get proper medical care and treatment. If you or a loved one are living with OCD, a clinical research study with Pharmasite Research in Pikesville, MD could be right for you. Sign up and learn more about this opportunity.