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Common OCD Obsessions

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 25 Mar 2015 | comments*Discuss
Ocd Symptoms Obsessions Cleaning Washing

The symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) often revolve around compulsions and obsessions. These can take a variety of forms, including cleaning and frequently washing hands and clothes. These rituals causes OCD sufferers a considerable degree of anxiety, as well as taking up a good deal of each day. Some of these symptoms are briefly described in our articles on “What Is OCD?” and “Types of OCD”, but this article looks at some of the most common OCD obsessions in more detail.

What are Obsessions?

Obsessions are distressing thoughts, images or impulses that occur on a regular basis and cause lots of anxiety to sufferers. Whereas people who do not suffer from OCD can dismiss these types of thoughts without too much difficulty, this is not the case in OCD. Instead, they persist in the minds of sufferers until they can often think of little else. Any attempts to suppress or ignore the intrusions usually end in failure.

In Pure 'O', intrusive thoughts and images are the main symptom of OCD. Physical compulsions are usually not present in this form of OCD. See our article on “Pure 'O' OCD” for more information on Pure 'O'.

Sufferers often try to block out or suppress the intrusions through specific compulsions in a bid to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessions. For many OCD sufferers, these physical compulsions actually make the original obsessions worse. Some of these physical compulsions are discussed in the rest of this article.


An obsessive desire for cleaning is a prominent OCD compulsion that often becomes an obsession. Sufferers generally feel the need to repeatedly clean anything that they touch or are about to touch in case they pick up dirt or germs. For example, some sufferers will carry antibacterial wipes to clean door handles several times a day so that they do not come into contact with other people's germs. They may also spend a significant amount of time cleaning surfaces so that they are spotless. The cleaning process is often repeated when dust settles again.

Washing Hands and Clothes

A constant need for sufferers to be washing hands and clothes is another common OCD compulsion that can turn into an obsession. As with the cleaning compulsion, it stems from the fact that sufferers fear being contaminated by dirt and germs.

Although these are some of the most common obsessions that sufferers develop, they are not the only OCD symptoms that you may experience. In many cases, physical compulsions such as cleaning and washing hands and clothes are an attempt to reduce the anxiety caused by the intrusive thoughts, images and impulses that cause many OCD sufferers to obsess about them.

Ironically, these physical compulsions can cause more anxiety and can increase the significance of the mental obsessions that they are intended to deflect attention away from. Whereas most people can easily dismiss violent or perverse thoughts as insignificant and nothing to worry about, they affect OCD sufferers to the extent that they eat away at them and take on a life of their own.

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A few of my friends have been asking me if I have OCD and I started wondering if I do or not just out if curiosity. I don't like being in a messy room and it makes me want to clean it, but not in the way I've heard are symptoms of OCD as in hoovering and disinfecting multiple times, but I have to count mybreathing to make sure I do it the right amount and in the correct time, and I have to have any number as a multiple of five, and I have to step on a certain surface (colour, shadow etc.) a multiple of 4 and I will walk on the spot or jump to the next step until it's right, and I can't step on cracks or paving slabs with cracks in them, and the other day I spend 30mins making sure all the crumbs for my crumble topping were the same size, and it slumped at the side a bit and I started crying in the kitchen and refused to cook or eat it because of the top not being flat, and my wardrobe is organised by clothing type, then in colour order after that and I have to get dressed in a certain order and if any of these things and more aren't right I have a stressed out meltdown.
me.22 - 25-Mar-15 @ 10:50 PM
@Claudia. Take a look at some of the articles in the 'Treatment' section on this site. There are a few including the Self Help article that may be of help. Good luck.
OCDSymptoms - 27-Nov-14 @ 10:45 AM
Hello, I wanted to ask for your advice. My house mate (next door room) has OCD and developed some kind of obsession for me. He's doing some extreme things and I don't really know how to cope with that. I can't move to another house because I have a contract so I have to try to solve this problem on my own. In your experience what do you think that I should do? Thank you so much in advance I do understand how is to have a disease that we can't control because my dad is an alcoholic, so really want to help this person and myself. You are a brave people writing and asking for help, I wish my dad did the same :)
Claudia - 26-Nov-14 @ 1:26 PM
@joj1357. It's hard to say really. Sometimes it is necessary to vacuume several times a day especially if you have lots of children or animals in the house. If she has, there is not a great deal you can do as this is your neighbour rather than a family member or close friend.
OCDSymptoms - 26-Nov-14 @ 11:16 AM
Hi, I,ve lived next door to someone who hoovers her home 8 times a day for 4 yrs now and puts washing out twice every day. She's told me in the past she goes through four hoovers a year! Recently, and despite being patient and saying nothing for four years, at 2315 at night when her hoover had broken down and sounded like a pneumatic drill, i knocked on her door to find her literally screaming at me when all we have done is be polite. Is this usual behaviour?
jojo1357 - 24-Nov-14 @ 11:56 PM
Ive always thought something was wrong with me. It started when my parents got divorced and I used to count syllables in sentences.As an adult I only do thatwhen I'm stressed.Since my teens I have scratched my scalp every day and lately I have started getting this thing about contamination. I can't use a drink that my child has drank out of or even share cutlery even with myself I need new cutlery for each course I also have to separate my food on the plate it's not allowed to touch other food.With drinks as soon as I pour one I have to drink it all or it gets contaminated and I have to throw away and get a new drink glass Is this OCD?Wierd thing is that I don't clean the house constantly in fact I can be messy however I do often Hoover 2ce a day if i see something on myarpet i have to hoover that whole housewipe my kitchen Dow n about 4 times a day too
Miss anon - 5-Sep-12 @ 12:29 PM
OCD covers a lot of things, but much of it is due to personal anxiety. For instance, my partner won't leave the house without checking that every window is locked and staring at the hob and the oven to ensure that none of them are on. She also washes her hands several times whilst preparing a meal, and even while washing up! I'm used to it now and don't think anything of it, but to an outsider this would seem like very obsessive behaviour.
martin - 27-Jun-12 @ 11:49 AM
10 years ago i was diagnosed with postnatal depression after my 2nd child, then they told me it wasnt , just a form of depression. i have tried many times to come off these tablets, i am also diabetic, when i was12 years old i know now i had ocd , but back then there wasnt a name for it, i really would like to find out if i have depression ocd or bipolar please help
beauty - 21-Nov-11 @ 9:12 PM
I think I have OCD but its more intrusive thoughts. I've always thought something was wrong with me more than the fact that I'm really introverted and I could most times suppress it or move on to something else. It's hard though. Sometimes I don't even feel like going out or I avoid any situations that might trigger it. What can I do?
anonymous - 20-Aug-11 @ 1:26 PM
Hi, Anonymous.An obsession with certain numbers like you have is very common.I went through a period in which I used to perform arithmetic manipulations of the digits on auto license plates in order to come up with a "safe" number; same thing with telephone numbers.Fear of harming someone or of having harmed someone is another common symptom of OCD.If these obsessions are debilitating, you should seek professional help.Good luck and take care!
Theo - 15-Jul-11 @ 5:57 PM
I think I have OCD but you haven't really done any articles about the sort of things i have to do. I'm obessed with the number 5 because there is 6 of us in my close family and i hate anyone to be left out. I avoid it as much as possible. I even have to look outside my window at night to see if i can see 6 stars. If i see 5, i will go outside and look for them. Also, when i'm writing, i will never put 5 words on 1 line or put 1 word on it. Sounds stupid, but it effects me severely. I hear people shouting my name even when there is no-one there. Sometimes i have to look at my hands to see if i've slapped someone because voices tell me i have. Please help me!
Anonymous - 5-Jun-11 @ 7:57 PM
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