The Less Talked-About Side of OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

By: Isabelle Siegel

When thinking about OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), most people instinctively think of those who care about cleanliness and tidiness. In fact, it is not uncommon to use the phrase “I’m so OCD” to imply that one agonizes over neatness and order. This perception of OCD is not without reason, as many people with OCD do obsess over germs, contamination, and order and engage in excessive hand washing, cleaning, and ordering.

However, it is important to note that this is not the reality for many other sufferers of OCD. OCD is a wide-ranging disorder involving the presence of obsessions—“repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety”—and compulsions—repetitive behaviors performed to relieve the anxiety. These obsessions can take nearly any form, with contamination and order being only two of them. Some other common obsessions include thoughts about: losing control or going insane, harming oneself or others, unwanted sexual ideas or images, and/or religion. For example, it is well-documented that people with OCD may experience intrusive thoughts about homosexuality, pedophilia, violence and aggression, and/or suicide.

Many people with these less talked-about OCD “themes” take longer to realize that they have OCD because their symptoms are not in line with the stereotypical hand washing and tidying. These individuals often engage in different compulsive behaviors to alleviate anxiety. These behaviors may include mental compulsions such as repeated checking and rumination (that is, repetitively reviewing and evaluating one’s thoughts and their meanings). For example, the individual who obsesses about violence and aggression may repeatedly check that he/she has not unintentionally harmed those around him/her.

It is ultimately important to acknowledge this less talked-about side of OCD in order to encourage sufferers to acknowledge their symptoms and to guide them to get the treatment and help that they need. 

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from OCD, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit

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