Friday, November 2, 2012

Obsessions and compulsions: The worst ones

As I’ve previously written about, I am doing exposure and response prevention therapy on my own through Dr. Jonathan Grayson’s book Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty.
Part of this work in fighting my OCD involves completing checklists to arrive at a list of the obsessions and compulsions that are most troublesome to me.
I like having such a list because it provides me with an idea of what I need to work on the most. And it was eye opening to realize how much OCD affects my daily life.
This list is not a fear hierarchy. As Grayson writes, “A fear hierarchy is a ranked order of the situations that cause you anxiety, ranked from most to least anxiety-provoking” (p. 67).
Rather, this list is a general overview of what my OCD looks like.
But I did use the list to help me come up with my fear hierarchies.
Below is a partial list of my obsessions and compulsions from the checklists that rated a five (highest rating) and a four. In other words, they are the obsessions and compulsions that take up more of my time and attention than others.
I’m providing this information for two reasons. If you have OCD, maybe you’ll see your own obsessions and/or compulsions here, and you will be reminded that you are not alone.
If you don’t have OCD, you will get a sense of some of the obsessions and compulsions that can occupy the life of someone with the disorder.

Obsessions rated at 5

  • An accident, illness or injury happening to someone else
  • Causing harm to others through my own negligence or carelessness
  • Doubt about whether or not I have harmed or injured others in the past
  • Bodily waste or secretions
  • Perfectly understanding what I have read
  • Perfectly communicating my thoughts through writing
  • Questioning whether I have told the truth perfectly
  • Questioning whether others perfectly understand what I have said
  • Doubting my faith or beliefs
  • Fears of having acted sinfully or unethically
  • Wanting to do, think or say everything (or certain things) perfectly
  • Wanting to know everything about a specific subject or topic

Obsessions rated at 4

  • Dirt or grime
  • Grease or greasy items
  • Sticky substances
  • Repetitive questions which are unimportant or for which there are no answers
  • Excessive awareness of normal bodily functioning (breathing, eyes blinking, heartbeat, etc.)
  • Being rejected by a loved one
  • Being deliberately sinful or blasphemous

Compulsions rated at 5

  • Handling or cooking food
  • Using public restrooms
  • Electrical appliances
  • Stoves
  • Light switches
  • My paperwork or writing for errors
  • Reading or rereading every word in a document to avoid missing anything
  • Rewriting or writing over numbers or letters to make them perfect
  • Questioning others, or my own memory, to determine if I have harmed or insulted someone (recently or in the past)
  • Collecting or removing objects from the environment that could harm others
  • Having difficulty using sharp objects
  • Checking on the whereabouts of others to be certain that harm has not come to them
  • Trying to limit the activities of others to prevent harm from happening to them
  • Repeatedly warning others of potential harm or danger
  • Saving excessive quantities of informational matter (newspapers, old lists, magazines, junk mail, etc.)

Compulsions rated at 4

  • Bathing or showering ritually and/or excessively
  • Avoiding specific people, places or objects that may be contaminated
  • Excessively questioning others about contamination
  • Washing dishes
  • Washing clothing
  • Driving situations (to verify that I did not hit someone or something with a vehicle)
  • Objects dropped accidentally
  • Container tops or lids for closure
  • Remaking decisions to ensure picking the perfect one
  • Moving my body or gesturing in a special way
  • Asking others if they will be safe or if things will turn out well for them


  1. Thankyou, Tina - sharing your list was really helpful and reassuring! More than anything, it actually made me realise that a lot of the things I do which I'd previously not thought of as OCD are, in fact, OCD.

    Which is something I've got to write a post on!

    When you say 'moving my body or gesturing in a special way', what exactly do you mean? I think this might be something I do, but I'm not sure...

    1. Kate, I'm glad you found this helpful.

      For me, movement compulsions are having to nod my head while listening to someone talk to me. It's not a huge problem, but I realized when I was doing the checklists that it's a movement I "have" to make when I'm conversing with someone, even over the phone. With some people, their movement rituals involve symmetry or counting.

  2. Tina, I'm exhausted after reading your lists! It's so helpful to see so much of your OCD in print. I blog about OCD all the time, but I often just think of it as a "disorder." Spelling it out as you do reminds me of how time consuming and debilitating it can actually be. Thank you!

    1. You're welcome, Janet, and thank you for your comment. It is time consuming. I didn't realize how much until I made my list.

  3. Our lists look very similar :-)

    1. The list making was very informative for me in figuring out the ways OCD affects me.

  4. Excellent list! It's so comprehensive. There is a real power in writing things down.

    1. Thank you, Nadine. I am learning more and more about the power of writing down things.

  5. I agree with Nadine, naming things undermine their power. Great job!

  6. Thank you for this list Tina, it does make me feel less alone.
    I'm working on the ERP with my psychiatrist and am actually amazed at what all happens to be OCD in my life. Things I battled with but never saw as OCD. It's amazing really.

    1. Klaaske, I'm glad the list helped. When I did the checklists in the book, I was amazed.

  7. That's a hefty load you're carrying :-( I hope that one day your list is much lighter.

  8. Man, oh man. I can relate. And I applaud you for sharing this information with us. I know I've said it before, but you're a true inspiration :)

  9. This was actually really interesting to read! Thanks for sharing and being open as always Tina.


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