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What Are Common Obsessive Behaviors?


Updated April 09, 2014

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Question: What Are Common Obsessive Behaviors?

A key symptom of OCD are compulsions. Compulsions are obsessive behaviors that you repeat over and over again (often for hours on end) to relieve anxiety. Common obsessive behaviors among people with OCD include:

  • Repeatedly checking to make sure that doors and windows are locked or that appliances are turned off. Some individuals with OCD have to check their neighborhood to make sure they have not hit someone with their car or assaulted someone.

  • Cleaning of the house, clothes and/or body.

  • Counting objects, letters, words (or just about anything).

  • Requesting or demanding reassurance from family members or health care providers (e.g., Have I molested someone? My hands should be clean now, right?).

  • Repeating phrases or sequences of words either out loud or in one's mind.

  • Rearranging objects to ensure a specific order and/or symmetry.

Obsessive behaviors can often be dramatically reduced using behavior therapy, such as exposure and response prevention therapy, as well as with OCD medication.


American Psychiatric Association. "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., text revision" 2000 Washington, DC: Author.

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