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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as an anxiety disorder. It is a neuropsychiatric disorder affecting between 1 to 3 percent of the population, and is known as one of the most common mental illnesses in America. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by intrusive, unreasonable thoughts and/ or fears (obsessions) that commonly lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). It is a debilitating condition that greatly affects an individual’s quality of life as the symptoms of this condition make completing everyday tasks extremely challenging. 

Five Main Symptoms

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can manifest in different ways, and symptoms will vary from person to person. As such, the symptoms of OCD have been grouped into the following five main categories:

  • Symmetry OCD symptoms: where everything must be arranged to perfectly reflect order and symmetry, such as:
    • Arranging clothes in a specific manner
    • Rewriting words and letters until there are no noticeable flaws or asymmetries in handwriting
  • Contamination OCD symptoms: fearing contamination, compulsively engaging in personal hygiene rituals:
    • Repeatedly washing hands
    • Cleaning items frequently
    • Refusing to touch doorknobs, light switches, etc. 
    • Avoiding touching other people
  • Unacceptability OCD symptoms: having intrusive, aggressive, sexual, or religious thoughts
    • Intense fear of acting on an undesirable yearning
    • Fear of committing a sin
    • Impulsively repeating a ritual
  • Harm OCD symptoms: in constant fear of hurting oneself or loved ones.
    • Has mental images of violence against themselves or others
    • Compulsively checking themselves and others to confirm they have not inflicted any harm
    • Avoiding sharp objects to prevent harming someone
    • Fear of giving in to a violent desire
  • Hoarding OCD symptoms: collecting things for fear that something bad may occur directly because of throwing items away.
    • Difficulty organizing things
    • Collects useless items that have no value
    • Being unable to refuse free items

Some individuals may exhibit symptoms related to multiple categories, although it is most common for an individual to experience symptoms as they primarily relate to one of the above categories. 

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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