Obsessive-compulsive disorder history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Priyanka Kumari, M.B.B.S[2] Sonya Gelfand; Abhishek Reddy


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric anxiety disorder most commonly characterized by a subject's obsessive, distressing, intrusive thoughts and related compulsions (tasks or "rituals") which attempt to neutralize the obsessions.[1]

History and Symptoms


  • OCD can appear in many different ways. The typical OCD sufferer engages in repetitive behaviors (or compulsions) in order to alleviate anxiety caused by obsession. These tasks may seem strange and unnecessary to others. However, such tasks can feel extremely important to the sufferer, and they must be completed in specific ways to prevent dire consequences and stress.


  • Symptoms may include some or all of the following:[1][2][3][4][5][6]
    • Repeated hand washing.
    • Repeated clearing of the throat, although nothing may need to be cleared.
    • Specific counting systems — e.g., counting in groups of four, arranging objects in groups of three, grouping objects in odd/even numbered groups, etc.
      • One serious symptom which stems from this is "counting" steps (e.g., feeling the necessity to take 12 steps to the car in the morning).
    • Perfectly aligning objects at complete, absolute right angles, or aligning objects perfectly parallel etc. This symptom is shared with OCPD and can be confused with this condition unless it is realized that in OCPD it is not stress-related.
    • Having to "cancel out" bad thoughts with good thoughts. Examples of bad thoughts are:
      • Imagining harming a child and having to imagine a child playing happily to cancel it out.
      • Sexual obsessions or unwanted sexual thoughts. Two classic examples are fear of being homosexual or fear of being a pedophile. In both cases, sufferers will obsess over whether or not they are genuinely aroused by the thoughts.
      • Strange and chronic worry about certain events such as sleeping, eating, leaving home, etc without proper items. An example would be one who cannot fall asleep without a metronome.
    • A fear of contamination (see Mysophobia); some sufferers may fear the presence of human body secretions such as saliva, sweat, tears, vomit, or mucus, or excretions such as urine or feces. Some OCD sufferers fear that the soap they're using is contaminated.[7]
    • A need for both sides of the body to feel even. (eg., a sufferer of OCD may walk down a sidewalk and step on a crack with the ball of their left foot, then feel the need to step on another crack with the ball of their right foot). Some sufferers would rather things to be uneven, favoring the preferred side of the body.
    • An obsession with numbers. Some people are obsessed with even numbers while loathing odd numbers (they cause them a significant amount of anxiety, discomfort, and often anger) or vice versa.
    • Twisting the head on a toy around, then twisting it all the way back exactly in the opposite direction.
    • Having tic disorder, in which one can can be seen making sudden, brief, repetitive movements such as eye blinking, facial grimacing, shoulder and head jerking, repetitive throat clearing, sniffing, or grunting.
    • Avoiding situations which trigger one's obsessions.
    • Using alcohol or drugs to to calm oneself.
    • There are many other possible symptoms, and one need not display those above to suffer from OCD. Formal diagnosis is performed by a mental health professional. Furthermore, possessing the symptoms above is not an absolute diagnosis of OCD.


The majority of patients with [disease name] are asymptomatic.


The hallmark of [disease name] is [finding]. A positive history of [finding 1] and [finding 2] is suggestive of [disease name]. The most common symptoms of [disease name] include [symptom 1], [symptom 2], and [symptom 3]. Common symptoms of [disease] include [symptom 1], [symptom 2], and [symptom 3]. Less common symptoms of [disease name] include [symptom 1], [symptom 2], and [symptom 3].

History and Symptoms

  • The majority of patients with [disease name] are asymptomatic.


  • The hallmark of [disease name] is [finding]. A positive history of [finding 1] and [finding 2] is suggestive of [disease name]. The most common symptoms of [disease name] include [symptom 1], [symptom 2], and [symptom 3].
  • Symptoms of [disease name] include [symptom 1], [symptom 2], and [symptom 3]. 


Patients with [disease name]] may have a positive history of:

  • [History finding 1]
  • [History finding 2]
  • [History finding 3]

Common Symptoms

Common symptoms of [disease] include:

  • [Symptom 1]
  • [Symptom 2]
  • [Symptom 3]

Less Common Symptoms

Less common symptoms of [disease name] include

  • [Symptom 1]
  • [Symptom 2]
  • [Symptom 3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hirschtritt ME, Bloch MH, Mathews CA (2017). "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Advances in Diagnosis and Treatment". JAMA. 317 (13): 1358–1367. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.2200. PMID 28384832.
  2. Rosario-Campos MC, Miguel EC, Quatrano S, Chacon P, Ferrao Y, Findley D; et al. (2006). "The Dimensional Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (DY-BOCS): an instrument for assessing obsessive-compulsive symptom dimensions". Mol Psychiatry. 11 (5): 495–504. doi:10.1038/sj.mp.4001798. PMID 16432526.
  3. Murphy DL, Timpano KR, Wheaton MG, Greenberg BD, Miguel EC (2010). "Obsessive-compulsive disorder and its related disorders: a reappraisal of obsessive-compulsive spectrum concepts". Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 12 (2): 131–48. PMC 3181955. PMID 20623919.
  4. Conelea CA, Walther MR, Freeman JB, Garcia AM, Sapyta J, Khanna M; et al. (2014). "Tic-related obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): phenomenology and treatment outcome in the Pediatric OCD Treatment Study II". J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 53 (12): 1308–16. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2014.09.014. PMC 4254546. PMID 25457929. Review in: Evid Based Ment Health. 2015 Aug;18(3):85
  5. Leckman JF, Bloch MH, King RA (2009). "Symptom dimensions and subtypes of obsessive-compulsive disorder: a developmental perspective". Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 11 (1): 21–33. PMC 3181902. PMID 19432385.
  6. Bloch MH, Landeros-Weisenberger A, Rosario MC, Pittenger C, Leckman JF (2008). "Meta-analysis of the symptom structure of obsessive-compulsive disorder". Am J Psychiatry. 165 (12): 1532–42. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.08020320. PMC 3972003. PMID 18923068.
  7. "OCD and Contamination". Retrieved 2007-06-28.

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