11 Common Signs Of OCD

by Carina Wolff

We all have our own little quirks: Some of us bite our nails and others of us have to set our alarm clocks at the same time everyday. But sometimes these little habits can be more than just quirks, and in some cases, they can actually be signs of obsessive compulsive disorder. Sometimes they really are just harmless habits, but they do indicate OCD, it can help to be aware so you can get yourself, or your loved one, the proper treatment to help make your life easier.

"There is a general lack of understanding about mental health disorders especially OCD," says clinical psychologist Dr. Jenny Yip over email. "Society tends to minimize it as quirk or almost like a bad habit. How many times have you heard, “I’m soooo OCD?” Many treat it as a punch line of a joke. OCD is no joke. It is a mental health issue and can be debilitating."

According to Psych Central, about 2.3 to 2.4 percent of the U.S. population has OCD, and it affects both men and women equally. So how do you know if you just have minor compulsions or obsessions rather than a full blown disorder? Look out for these 11 signs that someone's "quirks" are actually signs of OCD. They can especially be considered OCD if it takes up more than one hour a day, triggers intense anxiety, and interferes with day-to-day functioning.


A Need To Wash, Clean & Sanitize


"With this obsession, a person feels out of control with worried thoughts and images about contamination," says Yip. "They don’t want to have these thoughts and even know it doesn’t make sense to have them, but they can’t rest their mind or stop feeling uncomfortable with thoughts of things like germs, disease (i.e. HIV, herpes), dirt, body fluids (i.e. urine, feces), environmental contaminations (i.e. radiation) or even household chemicals like cleaners."


Moral Concerns That Lead To Praying And Confessing


For people with OCD, their concerns extend beyond just believing in God or wanting to lead moral lives. "Their thoughts are concerned with offending God or blasphemy and excessive concern with right and wrong or morality," says Yip. "You’ll see them praying and often repeating the same prayers or needing to confess often."


Excessive Safety Concerns


"This person is concerned with harm," says Yip. "This is the person that checks if the door is locked multiple times or can’t relax till they have double-checked that the stove is off. They may need to frequent the doctor to make sure they are healthy and okay."


Orderliness That Has To Be Just Right


"Compulsions for orderliness are more than just wanting a clean home or organized desk," says Yip. "It could mean that you must keep arranging and organizing till it 'feels right.'” Someone with OCD is concerned with losing control, losing items, losing or forgetting important information when throwing out something.


Need For Constant Reassurance


One compulsion of OCD is the "need to know." "With this compulsion, a person might need to ask the same question multiple times or need reassurance often," says Yip.


Repeated Counting


"[People with OCD feel] compelled to count ceiling tiles, bricks, people, cars, objects passed," says behavioral health psychologist Dr. Stephanie Parmely over email. This could be visible, but also just be in thought form.




"We all might have that 'quirky' relative who keeps everything with sentimental value or never throws anything away," says Dorian Crawford, PsyD over email. "This type of behavior crosses the line into hoarding when the idea of discarding items causes more distress and anxiety than living with the overabundance of items. People will go to extreme lengths to hide the compulsion to keep things by isolating themselves or refusing to let anyone into their home. It is not quirky anymore when the behavior leaves a person in an unhealthy, dirty or unsafe living environment."


Overblown Sense Of Responsibility


"Many people with OCD worry that they can cause catastrophic events to happen with their thoughts and actions, and then they will have to live with the overwhelming guilt of causing a catastrophe," says clinical psychologist Devon MacDermott, Ph.D. over email. They might check many times to make sure they didn't hurt or harm you, say if they dropped something on the ground or something similar.


Feeling Uncomfortable With Uncertainty


"People with OCD aim to have 100 percent certainty that everything is okay," says MacDermott. "This, of course, is impossible to achieve because we never know what is going to happen next and there are so many factors in the world that we can't control. People with OCD are extra uncomfortable with not knowing and try, in vain, to achieve certainty that everything will turn out okay."


Picking Of Skin Or Hair


Hair pulling and skin picking are both signs of OCD. "A person may pull out their hair, eyelashes or eyebrows, and work really hard to hide it. "It is considered a compulsive behavior when the person is distressed by the activity and experiences social or other forms of consequences as a result of their behavior," says Crawford. For some people, they pick their skin out of dissatisfaction wth their looks or as a stress reducer, she says. "It is no longer considered "quirky" when a person gets skin infections or starts to avoid contact with others for fear of them noticing the marks and broken skin.


Overly Focused On Physical Appearance


"A person may be overly focused on their physical appearance or a part of their physical appearance," says Crawford. "This may sound like a person is being vain or self-centered, but preoccupation with a physical body part can be considered obsessive. If the person, for example, cannot stop talking about the issue, takes drastic steps to correct what they see as an issue (many plastic surgeries, for example) or withdraws from others for fear of 'catching' another person's physical characteristics, then the behavior probably crosses the line into a clinical diagnosis."

While one of these habits or "quirks" on its own may not necessarily be a sign of OCD in every case, it's certainly a possibility worth checking out.