OCD: the repetition compulsion



Most people have rituals they perform over and over.

Sometimes they may be meaningful, sometimes not.  Rituals can

contribute a comforting familiarity to an unaccustomed

situation.  Or, they may have a reassuring effect in times of

stress, a superstitious meaning that is highly personal or be

simply a habit repeated over and over so that it becomes a

normal part of daily life.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) involves repetitive

thoughts and behaviors at another order of magnitude.  The

difference between OCD and normal behavior is the level of

anxiety involved and the lack of control the OCD sufferer has

over the repetitive thoughts or behavior.

People with OCD feel they can control their anxiety

only by performing the ritual.  They realize their obsessions

and compulsions are irrational and excessive.  Yet, they are

compelled to perform them.  That’s why they’re called


Typical obsessions involve cleanliness and

contamination, fear of acting out violently, unreasonable

fears for the safety of others, abhorrent religious or sexual

thoughts, and preoccupation with order, symmetry and


Compulsions might involve washing, checking on things,

counting, arranging, hoarding, and “magical” behaviors

designed to reduce obsessive thinking and compulsive acting.

People with OCD aren’t crazy.  But they often fear

others will think they are so they hide their problem.  This

makes them less likely to seek treatment which could help


OCD is a biochemical problem which can be relieved with

medication and behavioral therapy.  It usually begins in

adolescence or early adulthood but is also seen in children.

Some may outgrow it but for others it is a chronic problem

which recurs and is exacerbated by stress.  It is thought

that one to three percent of the population may be affected

at some point in their lives.

For more info, contact OCFoundation.org or call them at



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