What does OCD look like? by Olivia Spalter
Posted by SANE
13th Oct 2020
What does OCD look like?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic anxiety-related disorder dominated by compulsions and obsessions. Obsessions are thoughts, urges and mental images that are uncontrollable and repetitive. Compulsions are the behaviours that a person with OCD has to perform in response to their obsessive thought.


  • Fear of germs and contamination
  • Unwanted and taboo thoughts including religion, self-harm or sexual thoughts
  • Having to have symmetry in your life
  • Aggressive thoughts towards yourself or others


  • Compulsive counting
  • Constant checking of things- doors, hair appliances, plug sockets, oven etc
  • Systematically ordering and arranging things in a certain and precise order
  • Excessive cleaning or hand-washing

I suffer from a few different types of obsessions and compulsions, although a type of OCD which isn’t commonly known is called tic disorder, which includes repetitive behaviours such as eye movements and blinking, shoulder shrugging, hand gestures, face gestures etc. I always try to avoid situations where places and people will trigger these behaviours, as I have a fear that someone will see me. I found over the years that alcohol really emphasised these behaviours and make them a lot worse and more visible. I knew they were occurring but the compulsions were a lot more intense under the influence of alcohol. There are multiple different options for you to seek help such as therapy, CBT sessions, prescribed pills, group therapy, books, online forums, so I wouldn’t recommend drinking to help cure your illness, as it's only going to make it worse.

OCD can make you feel like you are responsible for preventing bad things from occurring. It has been the butt of jokes since I can remember and is one mental health illness that is usually misunderstood and has got a stigma attached to it. A lot of people associate OCD with being clean and organised, although there are multiple different types of OCD a person can suffer from, which in my case isn’t cleanliness and organisation. According to psychologist Menije Boduryan-Turner, she explains how there are four common behavioural categories of OCD.

  1. Acting compulsively- checking things, consecutive hand-washing, moving objects repeatedly, staring, having to have symmetry etc.
  2. Seeking reassurance- repeating certain things until it feels right, checking online for answers, asking friends and family things until they respond with the right answer etc.
  3. Avoiding triggers- social interactions, objects and places that trigger thoughts.
  4. Mental compulsions- repeating words, counting, mental checklists, visualisation, mental reviewing, overthinking etc.


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