Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Adults

Ethan was constantly worried about almost everything. He had repetitive thoughts that something might go wrong and that it would be all his fault. He would make sure that anything he did wouldn’t lead to a bad or dangerous outcome. Even if he was an hour away from home he would return to check if he locked the doors, he’d keep checking if his stove was off, and he would even constantly think about things that he may have done wrong to someone in the past. This constant obsession with everything has caused distress and worry in Ethan’s life.

“Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.” Clark, David A. & Radomsky, Adam S. (2014).



“Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that cause distressing emotions such as anxiety or disgust.” CMRO Molly Howland, M.D., H. (2020). Generally, people do worry sometimes about if they forgot to turn off the oven or lock the door, etc. However, someone who is diagnosed with OCD these obsessions become unable to control. The thoughts and worries never just go away on its own. Obsessions cause distress to those who have them constantly and in most cases, it presents itself in the form of anxiety.



“Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession.” CMRO Molly Howland, M.D., H. (2020). A person with OCD has compulsions to relieve the distress they feel caused by the obsessions. Sometimes these compulsions are evident and sometimes not. Most people do have a routine and a way of doing daily activities, but a person with OCD feels the absolute need to perform their routine and are unable to stop. People with OCD are aware that their repetitive behaviors do not always make sense, but they can’t stop themselves. This need for constantly acting on their compulsions can be known as rituals. When someone is diagnosed with severe OCD, these compulsions can take up most of their time, they will find that all of their time is gone and it becomes stressful to manage their lives. They tend to develop depression as well.


Common Obsessions

Contamination – People with OCD tend to be fearful of germs, dirt, or diseases. They are cautious about touching others, or toughing objects that others have touched before. They fear other things like saliva, semen, feces, and other bodily fluids.

 Doubting – They fear that they may have done something wrong that might cause harm to others, such as not locking a door or tuning off the stove. They fear making mistakes when doing daily tasks such as sending an email.

Ordering – They fear if things are not done right. They have to keep everything in the correct order.

Religious – They are fearful if going against their religion and preoccupy their thoughts with religion.

Aggressive – Fearful of harming others whether it be with a weapon or with their words, fearful of harming themselves, and they also fear that they might be inappropriate in public.

Sexual – They fear having unwanted sexual thoughts which are forbidden, such as sexual thoughts about children and sexual thoughts about parents.



Common Compulsions

Cleaning – Washing hands too frequently, excessive bathing and grooming, and cleaning the house too much.

Checking – Repeated checking that they didn’t do something like hit someone’s car, or re-checking written documents and confirming with others that there are no errors.

Arranging – Everything must be in a sequence and perfectly arranged from kitchen items to closet items.

Hoarding – They collect useless items and store them; it could even be garbage. They have difficulty letting go of their possessions because they have developed sentimental value towards them, even if they have many of the same items.


Determining if you have OCD

One cannot determine themselves if they have OCD. A therapist will look for the following to diagnose someone with OCD.

  • If obsessions are present.
  • If compulsive behaviors are present
  • If these obsessions and compulsions get in the way of important daily activities


Treatments for OCD

The best treatment for OCD is Cognitive-behavioral therapy which focuses on replacing thoughts and behaviors. Along with Exposure and Response Prevention which includes psychotherapy to help patients develop insight into their problems. There are also medications prescribed for people with OCD depending on the severity of the disorder.



Choosing the Right Therapist

If you suspect that you may have OCD it’s important to remember that there are many options. There are some questions that can be asked to find the right fit for you. There is no need to be ashamed to ask any questions, only you can determine what is right for you.

You can ask some of the following questions while interviewing a therapist: Maggie Baudhuin, MLS, J. (2021)


  • What treatments do you use with patients that have OCD?
  • Do you use Exposure Response Prevention?
  • What is your training when it comes to OCD?
  • Do you see many patients who have OCD?
  • Have you been effective with your previous OCD patients?


Knowing your options can be very beneficial for your treatment and prospective outcome of the disorder. OCD can make daily life difficult. Having OCD can make you feel like you are in danger even when you are not, so it is super important to get the right treatment and lower the number of compulsive behaviors you might have. There is always a way to get better!



Clark, David A. & Radomsky, Adam S. (2014). Introduction: A global perspective on unwanted intrusive thoughts. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. Available online 18 February 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.jocrd.2014.02.001


CMRO Molly Howland, M.D., H. (2020). What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?.


Maggie Baudhuin, MLS, J. (2021). What you need to know about obsessive compulsive disorder.