oCd, what it actually is

oCd, what it actually is

Kendall Lee and Elexis Yang


Many people talk lightly about OCD as if it wasn’t considered a serious mental disorder. OCD, also known as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is more serious than it might seem. People tend to confuse this mental disorder with pet peeves, or often get mistaken for ADHD, Autism, or Tourette’s syndrome. There is a 25% chance of having a blood relative who has OCD. Also, 1 in 100 kids have OCD, while 1 in 40 adults have OCD, and overall, 2.3% of the world’s population has this disorder. OCD equally affects all people, including males, females, children, and different races.

According to Merriam-Webster, OCD is “an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent obsessions or compulsions or both that cause significant distress, are time-consuming or interfere with normal daily functioning, and are recognized by the individual affected as excessive or unreasonable.”

People who have been diagnosed with OCD go through a specific daily cycle that involves four stages. The first stage is obsessive thought, which is usually unwanted and uncomfortable to people with OCD. The second stage is anxiety, where the person becomes extremely anxious. The next stage consists of compulsive behavior, where the person tries to overcome the obsessive thought and anxiety through a certain action. This leads to temporary relief, which is the fourth stage for OCD. But that doesn’t last long, because after that, the cycle restarts.


There are several differing types of obsessions, each very different from one another. The different obsessions are, contamination fears, causing harm, sexual obsessions, pedophilic obsessions, religious obsessions, symmetry and exactness, and other obsessions.

Contamination Fears

One out of four people with OCD have contamination fears. These fears consist of fears of disease or illness, religious concerns, and fears about health or toxic substances. There are many obsessions for people with contamination fears: dirt and germs, household items (cleaning items without toxins), environmental contaminants (radiation, asbestos, pesticides, toxic waste, radon, mold, lead paint), body wastes or secretions (feces, blood, saliva), sticky or greasy substances (stickers, glue, butter, cooking oil), and animals or insects.


Causing harm 

These kinds of people with OCD have a great fear of either accidentally or purposely harming others. They always feel very responsible for their actions and are afraid that they might have misplaced something that might hurt someone else. They are afraid of having aggressive obsessions, harming others impulsively, or doing something shocking or embarrassing.


Sexual and Pedophilic obsessions

People with sexual obsessions fear that they might be attracted to something or someone they shouldn’t be attracted to, such as becoming LGBTQ. People with pedophilic obsessions, or P-OCD, fear that they might become sexually attracted to children, maybe even their own.


Religious obsessions

People with religious obsession often feel that they have disappointed God. These people have fears of blasphemous thoughts, morality, unethical behavior, performing a religious task or ritual in the wrong way, and displaying profanity. These fears often influence one’s religion and culture.


Symmetry and Exactness

This obsession is pretty self explanatory. People with this obsession often are uncomfortable when an object is misaligned or in disarray, which causes distress, because they are in need of symmetry.


Other Obsessions

Other obsessions consist of fear of not saying the right thing, fear of needing to be perfectly understood, fear of superstitions, and an excessive concern with body part of aspect of appearance, though it is not weight related.



Compulsions are the reaction towards the obsessions, in which the person with OCD will try to fix or solve their obsession. The 7 main compulsions are washing and cleaning, checking, repeating, counting, ordering and arranging, mental rituals, and somatic compulsions.


Washing and Cleaning

Washing and cleaning is the compulsion in response to contamination fears. This compulsion is often making sure everything is safe and uncontaminated. Those who are trying to prevent being harmed or spreading harm to others, and those who feel discomfort or contaminated by specific substances always make sure that everything is clean.



This compulsion is where a person is always constantly checking to make sure nothing can cause harm to others. They always check that locks are secure; check that stoves, appliances, and switches are turned off; check if they have accidentally harmed others; check if they accidentally harmed themselves; check that they aren’t responsible for any catastrophes; check for mistakes; and check health concerns.



People with this compulsion are always redoing things, and worrying about missing something. They always re-read, re-write, and repeat routine activities such as going in or out the door, or getting up and down from a chair.



These people might think that certain numbers have a special significance. They also are always counting steps, items, numbers aloud, numbers mentally, or numbers on devices


Ordering and Arranging

The compulsion goes with the obsession of symmetry and exactness. These people are repetitively arranging, or organizing or lining up of items until it seems just right or it feels perfect.


Mental Rituals

Mental rituals result in unwanted thoughts lead to unwanted views of self. Special words, images, and numbers are repeated mentally to neutralize anxiety. Special prayers are repeated in a set manner as well as mental list making, reviewing (conversations or actions), erasing of unwanted mental images, undoing, and self-reassurance.


Somatic Compulsions

Somatic, according to Merriam-Webster, means “of, relating to, or affecting the body especially as distinguished from the germplasm.” People who have somatic compulsions often constantly check how their body feels and keep trying to stay healthy. These people constantly have health anxiety and sexual worries.


Other Compulsions

Some other compulsions are an urge to tell or confess; superstitious behaviors; self-damaging or self-mutilating behaviors, like biting nails to make them all even, or picking skin to address an imperfection; urges to touch, tap, or rub; rituals involving blinking or staring; and ritualized eating behaviors, for example, eating foods in a certain order.



People often confuse pet peeves with OCD, though they are very different things. According to Merriam-Webster.com, a pet peeve is “a frequent subject of complaint.”

Some examples of pet peeves are: 

  1. Slow walkers
  2. Having to repeat yourself
  3. When the toilet seat it left up
  4. When the water is left running
  5. Slow or rude drivers
  6. People who are interruptive while you are speaking
  7. Loud noises on planes
  8. Know-it-alls and attention-hogs
  9. When people don’t cover their mouths
  10. When people open your door but don’t close it once they leave


Pet peeves are just annoyances, while OCD is a serious disorder with unwanted obsessions and compulsions. It may seem like all obsessions are related to OCD, but it is only OCD when a compulsion follows the obsession.



People commonly misunderstand how severe most diseases and disorders are, and often take them very lightly. But, on the other hand, people can also mistaken these conditions for something life threatening, and are afraid of these people who can’t control their actions. People need to know that OCD is a serious disease and that it can make people uncomfortable when they bring it up. Learning about these types of disorders can advise people to self reflect on themselves and how they are treating other people around them.