What to Know About OCD: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Symptoms of OCD fall into the categories of obsessions and compulsions. They can show up in a variety of ways from person to person.

These symptoms can get in the way of daily life, especially because they can take up time.

For example, someone with a ritual of knocking on their door three times before leaving will likely do it even when it’s impractical — like if they’re late for work or in an emergency.


Obsessions are often compared to intrusive thoughts, but they’re also different from day-to-day anxieties.

If you have OCD, you might often try to suppress these thoughts or relieve the anxiety they cause with a different thought or a compulsion.

These obsessions, or thoughts, could include:

  • images of hurting others
  • thoughts you consider immoral, bad, or shameful
  • urges to do something you don’t want to do

It’s common to have one specific thought (or type of thought) that comes to you over and over again. But the thought can also change over time.


Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you might feel a strong need to do in order to soothe anxiety related to an obsession.

Some examples of compulsions include:

  • repeating words or phrases mentally
  • hand-washing
  • repeating an action
  • checking locks, windows, or other objects

These compulsions might not seem directly connected to the obsession. For example, somebody might have intrusive thoughts about hurting someone, feel upset by these thoughts, and then feel a compulsion to shake their hands to relieve that distress.

Here’s a deeper dive into the symptoms of OCD if you’d like to learn more.