10 Common OCD Symptoms and Traits

10 Common OCD Symptoms and Traits

Indications of Obsessive and Compulsive Tendencies

OCD traits or symptoms indicating professional help may be needed

Dirt and Contamination

  • Groundless fears of contracting a dreadful illness
  • Intense worry of spreading germs or illness to others
  • Excessive worry over dirt and germs, including environmental contaminants
  • Excessive hand-washing, showering, bathing, or cleaning rituals
  • The overwhelming feeling certain household items (clothes, dishes, etc.) are contaminated and cannot ever be clean enough
  • Feelings of disgust or aversion about bodily waste and secretions

Those facing contamination issues, should first try behavior therapy. Other types of therapy may still be needed as a follow up.

A Need for Order or Symmetry

  • A high need to align objects “just so”
  • The need to keep doing something until one gets it “just right
  • Unusual concerns about the neatness of one’s personal appearance or one’s environment

This common OCD symptom is quite often associated with perfectionism. Various approaches can be used to help over come the need for symmetry


  • Keeping useless trash (such as old newspapers or items rescued from trash cans)
  • Accumulating useless objects
  • An inability to throw out things because they may be needed sometime

Hoarding is not just about holding on or letting go. Like all obsessions, there are strong emotional components keeping the rituals in place

Sexual Content

  • Fear of molesting a child, despite having no desire to do so
  • Unwanted, inappropriate and unacceptable sexual thoughts
  • Fears of being homosexual

Another common OCD symptom, yet due to its embarrassing overtones, many keep it a secret and never seek help

Repetitive Rituals

  • Rewording sentences until they make sense or feel right
  • Rewriting words or phrases
  • Repeating routine activities for no logical reason
  • Repeating questions over and over (verbally or in thought)Common OCD Traits

What Kind of OCD Treatment Should I Get?


  • Having difficulty trusting doors are closed or locked
  • Habitual checking to make sure appliances or water is turned off
  • Constant checking and rechecking for mistakes
  • The need to touch, tap or rub certain objects repeatedly
  • Checking to no one has not has been harmed. Feeling overly responsible for the well being of others

Religious Obsessions (Scrupulosity)

  • Upsetting blasphemous or sacrilegious thoughts
  • Repeating prayers to make a bad thought go away
  • Extreme concerns about morality and right or wrong
  • High need to confess things

A common OCD symptom often treated incorrectly. Those with scrupulosity tend to seek church guidance, trying to cling tighter to their faith in hopes that an improved relationship with God will stop the obsessions. The problem is not faith, as other underlining issues need to be addressed. All or nothing perspectives of religion may need to be addressed first to help ease obsessions.


  • A fear of having hurt someone or caused some fatal tragedy
  • Constant intrusive images of violence
  • A fear of acting out a violent thought

Food and Weight

  • Overly concerned about one’s weight
  • Irrational fears that some foods are bad or must be avoided
  • Preoccupied with food
  • Rituals involving food such as not letting foods touch each other
  • Unable to control the amount of food being consumed

Sometimes there is a fine line between those who live unhealthy life styles and those obsessing about food. Weight loss clinics will not be the answer for those who need to address other issues.


  • Excessive belief certain numbers, objects or people are lucky or unlucky
  • Superstitious rituals to counter negative thoughts or consequences
  • A feeling of dread if some arbitrary act is not performed
  • An overwhelming need to tell information or to ask someone something
  • Asking for constant reassurance

For those with obsessions or symptoms not listed above, it does not mean they are strange or weird. This is not a comprehensive list of all OCD symptoms, since the human mind can obsess on virtually anything.

Having an elevated level of awareness of ones symptoms is normal, since it is where the mind has fixated. However fixation does not indicate the real problem. In actuality. the underlining issues supporting the OCD and how the mind processes these underlining thought patterns is what needs to be addressed. Whether one has common OCD ymptoms or not, the structure of OCD is complex. When seeking treatment, it is important to keep in mind that simple techniques to distract oneself from their obsessions is not the answer, it will only prolong the suffering. 

For other OCD symptoms or anxiety disorders, Designed Thinking offers a full range of assistance. For more information call: 866-718-9995



  1. I think I might have minor OCD, but I’m not sure. Most likely though. Right now, I have OCD with my jean zipper. Every once in a while, I feel the need to touch the edge of the zipper & if i don’t the thought will stay in my head and ill think “i need to touch it.” It’s not major OCD but it IS ruining my life and im stressed from it. If I touch it people will look at me funny, so i need to hold back. but then I will have anxiety. but thats not the point. Does anyone know if this sounds like OCD? and how can I get rid of these thoughts/compulsions? Before this, I had OCD with having to push up my glasses CONSTANTLY. i dont even know whats wrong with me, but its bothering me, and I need help. If i don’t do what my thoughts are telling me to do, the thoughts won’t go away. I will constantly think about it until I am relieved by doing the thing its telling me to do. I’m too scared to tell my fam I might have OCD. either way, my mom would brush it off. so is there a way i can get rid of these compulsions w/o therapy or seeing a doctor?

    • Does it sound like OCD? Yes. Even if it wasn’t, you have a problem that you know needs attention.
      You have some contradictions going on here, which would not be uncommon with those suffering from obsessive tendencies. I am not sure how you are defining major or minor OCD, but if it is ruining your life, it sounds like a pretty major problem. Many with OCD try to minimize their conditions and in the same breath talk about how bad it is. You also you know you need help but are trying to avoid getting help.
      So lets get a few thing straight. When the mind gets stuck in obsessions or compulsions, the system of you is out of balance with itself. You feel anxious, out of control, overwhelmed, etc, Hence you have disorder. It’s not about getting fixed or finding a cure, it is about making changes and these changes tend to be fairly complex. It is why OCD is greatly misunderstood and why outside help is needed.
      You didn’t mention your age. It sounds as if you feel unsupported at home. Sooner or later you are going to have to see someone about this. If you are still in school, talk to your school counselor. They won’t be able to help with the obsessions, but might be supportive in helping you get help.
      I wish I could give you some simple exercises, some easy to take steps that would forever rid you of your situation. Unfortunately, that is not how complex issues change. Now the good news is you are not prone to be stuck in these thought patterns forever, if you find help. Prolonging seeking help will not make things easier. It may be scary to talk to someone about this, but as your finding out, it can be devastating if you don’t get help. The firsts steps are sometimes the scariest ones and yet you have to make them so that you can begin finding a sense of peace within yourself. Hope this helps

  2. I believe and have for about 25 years that my husband has OCD, which is getting worse with age. I also think he may be suffering now from alcoholic dementia..why???, he has a terrible memory, just terrible, if he doesn’t write it down, he will look at you next day and blatantly “say I am nuts and I didn’t talk to him about whatever matter was discussed” Does he need help?? I know the answer, but what do I do when “he” strongly believes there is absolutely nothing wrong with him, nothing!!! and it is all in my head”. The saddest part of all of this is his children that are now young adults grew up with a man that viewed them as a germ..he would allow our daughter, young at the time, an occasional hug, if she asked for it,(and would grill her as to whether she was clean enough to touch him) but soon stopped because of the look of disgust on his face when he had to touch her, he would then, practically run to the laundry room to wash his hands and spit in the sink (I believe the spitting had something to do with getting rid of the air in his lungs that “she may have breathe out). He would also accuse ME of “not liking or wanting to be touched”. So , soon we will be empty nesters, I feel a certain amount of responsibility towards my “husband”, I wish him no grief, but over the years our relationship has suffered dreadfully. His obsession with himself has closed his eyes to his family, he doesn’t move about the house as if he shares a home. He moves around as if he were the only one here and everything in it is HIS and if you are in a bathroom or in a doorway he is trying to get through, or touching something he feels you should not, turning the heat up because YOU are cold or hot, he gets annoyed really annoyed. He also has a complete obsession with the recycling, it crazy!!! Late after everyone in the house has gone to bed, you will hear him talking to himself Loudly (he thinks he is whispering)in the kitchen as he finishes his beer, saying horrible things mostly about me, how stupid I am , how I do not appreciated things….( I have told him I and the kids can hear what he says) I warned him time and time again he needed to stop, I am only human and finally it has happened. In my words he has sucked the life out of marriage, I have next to no emotions left for him other than pity. This did not need to happen..if he only would have listen when I told him 25 years ago, he need some guidance in regard to his behavioural pattern, I knew then something was up, I just didn’t know what.
    What is the next step or is there one……….

    • First realize that if your husband has OCD, he has been practicing the art of not listening to some extent or another. People going through this challenge have areas they are extremely sensitive in that they protect (this will be seen even before the obsessions come into play) and they don’t necessarily like listening to their own non supportive internal dialog. They don’t trust their own thinking process, thus it is difficult for them to trust others. Preaching to them more often than not only has them digging in further not to listen to what you are telling them. So it’s not surprising he tends to ignore you in the way he is.

      Now what can you do when it is obvious someone needs help and they continue to resist treatment. It is a tricky road to go down. Unless someone is hurting themselves there is little you can do to force anyone to seek help. Since your husband is shutting the outside world out, he will probably not be receptive to strangers coming in the house (AKA therapist).
      Make sure you are not enabling his obsessions. All help really boils down to participation from those who need it and you may need to let him make things really get uncomfortable before he sees he needs help. At this time it is still comfortable enough for him to avoid change.. Keep in mind this can be a tricky road to travel and you may some professional guidance to help you get through this.
      Lastly, you are first and foremost responsible for your own well being. If your own health is suffering you have to do whatever it takes to keep your head above water. You may feel responsible, but that does not mean you are and that burden is not helping the situation at all.
      I hope this helps

  3. britne fussell

    I am newly married just over a year and my husband’s ocd is ruining our marriage. He obsesses about details of my past, before I even knew him, Who I talk to, and what we talk about and for how long. I’m not allowed to leave the house without him because he fears something will happen. I’m currently 8 months pregnant and I just cannot seem to catch a break. I’m tired of having to explain what I wear, Why it took me a few extra minutes to pick kids up from school, Why I didn’t answer the phone when he calls. It drives him crazy having his brain constantly on wide open, and he sees what he is putting me through but can’t seem to overcome it, even for a day. I understand not having control on what he thinks about, but he can control what he decides to discuss and to let go. I really need help and guidance.

    • Michael

      When someone gets into an obsessive mindset, they are not thinking rationally. He needs help and the question is “Does he think he has a problem or is he blaming only you for is emotionally upsets and thoughts”.
      This will not change on its own and you need to talk to him about getting help. If he is unwilling, then the marriage will suffer. If you stay, you will suffer and probably your child as well.

  4. I have been scared of stairs since I fell down some when I was little, I feel the need to run up them or hold on to the banister really tightly and if it doesn’t have a banister I need someone with me to hold my hand or just hold on to me. This hasn’t really been a problem for me as most stairs have railings but when I have to go up/down steps I need a friend or someone to be, almost, holding me up. When I was a kid I’d get over it by sitting down on my bum and taking one step at a time but my mother would get really annoyed at me or I would refuse to go down by bum because I knew I would look stupid. My best friend helps me a lot because (she has anxiety) and she links arms with me or hugs me or something but yeah.

    • I meant ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ on the 2nd line

    • Annie
      Many people confuse anxieties with phobias and sometimes it is just a matter of symantics. The information you provide is not enough to know for sure, but it sounds as though this might be more of a phobia and those tend to be easier to release. You may want to find someone in your area and check if this isn’t something that can be easily handled

  5. Hey
    I’m 15 years old and I think I have ocd
    Everytime I think of someone I don’t like, I spit
    I also touch things repeatedly.
    Those are the things I have and it’s so annoying
    I just can’t help it I do it almost everyday
    Is there a way I can stop all this abnormal behaviour
    I also do things only odd number of times
    Before it was even but now somehow it changed to odd
    Please I need help ASAP

    • Hey, it sound like OCD, but you should go to a therapist and get a proper diagnosis. OCD is a complex challenge and there are many ways it can be manifested and not everyone agrees on the most effective way to deal with it. But, it can be changed, you can change and you can exert more control over your thoughts and behaviors. This will not happen by using will power or being a strong person, it will change by you making changes in yourself
      Talk to someone about this. I know this can feel embarrassing, but a professional should be able to talk to you without judgment

  6. I have brumotactillophobia, the fear of food touching, and I’m fairly sure this is a form of OCD seeing as I nearly burst into tears over how a cheeseburger was made (it was done wrong). I also have to check that the volume on the television is an odd number and if it doesn’t show the number, only lines, I need to count up by 3 and then down by three a number of times before I’m satisfied. There’s also the separation of certain candy by color and each one must be eaten in order. Finally, I also get anxious when I see a spelling or grammar mistake and must correct it in order to relax. I know these are odd behaviours and many would fall within the scale of OCD but is it normal to have multiple different “quirks”?

    • Laura
      Challenges in life, whether they have a label or not, very often come clustered together. Labels we place on these things that feel abnormal are about your nervous systems, your unconscious, your expectaions, your emotional and mental states ability to process certain ideas, environments and internal feelings. How well can you accept things that do not match your internal expectations, how do you process differences and change.
      Disorders and problems can be processed, created and held onto in many different ways. There is no one door they all pass or exit through. Those with OCD or obsessive tendencies very often have other challenges that are diagnosed or misdiagnosed as other things. They are usually all part of the same problem
      If these quirks are minor annoyances, you will learn how to live them or put up with them. If they are problematic for you, then seek help

  7. Elizabeth L Bobo

    My sister is always asking me if we brushed up against each other. I am like, no.ie: we will be shopping. She asks me over and over again if we touched. I ask her why it would matter if our arms accidentally touched and she just says, but they didnt, right? She says it is her ocd. Worried

    • Elizabeth
      it very well may be her OCD. What should worry you is if she is not doing anything about it. What is she doing to address this? Is she seeing a therapist?
      It is very difficult for a rational person to be around someone whose actions seem irrational. She would change if she knew how, but she doesn’t. That doesn’t mean she can’t change though. Trying to be rational with someone with OCD seldom works, since obsessions are driven by emotional conflicts, usually created within.
      Ask her what she is doing to deal with her OCD? Ask her if she needs help finding someone to work with.

  8. I think a have a moderate case of OCD if anyone can help me out. I always keep my phone in my right pocket and wallet in my left. If I am eating food (ex burger fries and drink) I finish them all at the same time. I do not like to try new foods but will because I do not want to waste a meal I enjoy and I always usuallly get the same orders I like. I have all the apps organized on my phone a certain way. I like to have all my stuff organized except my room I don’t care if it’s messy. I have a tendency to shave my face the same way every time which is unorthodox in random spots. Can anyone help give me a better understanding of what I been dealing with without even knowing how bad my OCD might be….

    • Mike
      Most certainly you are set in your ways and have difficulty processing new or different things. This makes your world a lot smaller than it could be and it is probably driven by a fear of being unprepared, ridicule, or criticism in some form. As to what else you are going through, there is not a whole lot of other information to go by here. If this is a problem for you, then you should talk to someone about this a bit more in depth.

  9. Every time I touch something I feel that I need to touch the rest of the object before I can do anything. I have had this OCD for quite a while now and I kind of feel that I’m getting used to it. An example of this is when I touch a button I need to touch the rest of the button. Imagine a button about 10 by 10 centermeters and I press it I would then need to touch the rest of the button before I continue with the activity I’m doing at the time. Could someone tell me more about this need to touch things until the entire serface has been touched by me?

    • Willby, there is no adequate way to answer this with out lengthy explanation and even then, it can be different for each person. This is the nature of OCD, where the mind and nervous system send signals that feel real but are irrational. The real issues in not your need to touch an object completely after touching it, that is just the place your mind is currently getting stuck at. You know it is irrational and yet feel compelled to do it anyways. You can give what drives this a simple line of reasoning like it is a chemical imbalance, hereditary or something else, but that does not really explain the complexity of it. The structure of why this is, is the same or similar structure as to why people need to check doors after locking or washing hands or any other compulsion

  10. My 7 year old son has started a new habit of spitting. At first we just thought it was gross, but now, I am thinking its uncontrolled and caused by anxiety or OCD. When I ask him why, he has different answers- I have something gross in my mouth, my mouth tastes gross and the latest is “when I look at plastic, I feel like a piece is in my mouth and I need to spit it out”. This had me most concerned because he looks at plastic occasionally (like a straw) and needs to spit out his saliva. He uses his sleeve or his shirt around his chest or his jacket sleeves, a napkin or a sink when possible. He isn’t just spitting on the carpet or floor. He also will let it accumulate in his mouth because he will not swallow it. I dont think this is constant, but its becoming more frequent. He has ADHD and dyslexia. He has always had anxiety. Where do I even start with this? I could use some advice.

    • Hi Sarah
      There is not enough information here to give you any good advice. He could have a form of synesthesia, it could be OCD, it could be something different. You could start by seeing a medical professional or psychologist in your area to first make sure his symptoms are based on something being triggered that he doesn’t know or can’t process. That would be a good place to start

  11. annonymous

    i am 15 and m pretty sure i have OCD because i literally cannot touch certain fruits and if anyone touches them they have to wash their hands before touching me or my things its really annoying but i cant do anything aboutit myself as i just feel disgust at some fruits i really want to be a professional boxer 1day aswell so i need to eat better but this is causing me trouble really need to get over this ocd thng

    • Sounds like you have a form of contamination obsession. While anything is possible, it is not likely to go away on its own, you are going to want to seek help. For contamination obsessions, CBT is a nice starting point. Find someone in your area to work with

  12. Laurie Lee

    Hello I have been diagnosed with OCD, my themes have changed a lot over the last few years. I used to have an obsessive worry over being sick in public, i would get intrusive images of the act happening, i had similar intrusive images for years. Then it moved to obsessive worry over being pregnant even though this wasn’t possible. Then it moved into relationship OCD and intrusive thoughts about not loving my partner (which i do!!). Then it moved into Harm/violent intrusive thoughts for a short while before becoming a fear of being homosexual (i know that i am not!) And now since i have overcome that i am now having unwarranted fears of being transgender! All my ocd obsessions happen in the same way, i get a thought that makes me uncomfortable then i start to rationalise it and ruminate over it! I am a few weeks into medication but nothing is changing yet, i am trying cbt methods but i’m my best to keep going. I just keep losing hope but i know it will get better.

    • Michael

      If I were to guess, the underlining theme on all your obsessions is lose of control, something you may want to work on at some point. You are correct, medication can take weeks before they kick in, so hopefully you will begin getting some results soon.

  13. Benjamine

    Hi im not shure what to do. Wen ever i walk somewere i walk along spitting like crazy, ive tryed tablets that stop build up of saliva and it just made my mouth too dry. Wen im in a public place like a shoping centr i can controlit but as soon as i walk outside i realy cant control it. I dont know what to do plz help with advice.

    • Michael

      People with OCD can control their obsessions when public criticism might exist, which is probably the case when you are in a mall. You will want to work with a therapist to either get to the core issue or try CBT to see if the pattern can be stopped

  14. Hello,
    I have been struggling with two different themes of OCD for the past two years. The most recent one has lasted for the last 6 months and it is the worst yet. It is making me doubt my identity and who I am as a person. It happened right after I read something about having this kind of ocd and then I got into a never ending thought process, thinking what if I am this and if I am this then? Even though I know that I am not that, my thoughts make me doubt who I am and then it leads to me thinking do I need to change. Even though I don’t want to and don’t care to change because I am happy with the person I am. It causes me immense anxiety and I’m not able to focus on anything else, especially when I get stuck. I have been able to get past it at times but it somehow always comes back with an intrusive thought. I haven’t been diagnosed with OCD yet since I haven’t gone for help. Would you be able to help me?

    • The challenge with OCD is that is always tells you something you know isn’t true, but it does it in such a relentless format that it feels real to the person.
      There is often the illusion that if the OCD was gone, everything would be alright, yet your unconscious is telling you something different every time the OCD returns. Many people can keep their OCD at bay, at least for a while, but when enough stress creeps in, the OCD comes back.
      Taking action for personal change can be a scary idea, so it is easy to do lots of research hoping that one might stumble upon that missing data that will transform their life. Years later, they are still in the same place or worse off. It is time to stop researching and take action. Getting a diagnosis would be a good start and most likely you will be give a prescription for medication. This is typically the most affordable approach, which is why many take this path. Sooner or later it is advised you seek some form of therapy. You most certainly can call us for more info

  15. Great question and the obvious answer would be no. People can worry about anything, be anxious about anything, get angry about anything, or feel guilty about anything. You of course have areas where these emotional responses make sense to you, places you will justify why it is normal people would react with these emotions. Yet someone else will look at your reactions and think them to be silly, unnatural or unnecessary. You in the same way will look at others whose fears, obsessions, or worries do not make sense to you, so you will deem them unnecessary, crazy or whatever other label you want to throw on them. One can argue some responses to be more rational than others and some emotional responses may be, yet if you look at different cultures, there take on things may be different. There have been cultures that have celebrated death (and sometimes the persons life), which is very different than the fear many carry on the subject.
    Obsessions maybe percieved as an mental process, but they are emotionally driven, so I would not jump to immediate conclusion that any emotion is generated by one set of reasons


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  2. Candice - If the mind can obsess on just about anything, doesn't that prove OCD is a chemical imbalance?

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