Select Page

Signs Of OCD In Adults

What is OCD?

According to the International OCD Foundation, 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”.

Therefore, there are two parts of OCD; obsessions and compulsions. The first, obsessions, are unwanted thoughts, feelings, or urges that cause the person suffering from OCD to feel intense distress, anxiety, fear, guilt or shame. When it comes to compulsions, these are any action or behavior that are performed to relieve the distress caused by an obsessional trigger.

To simplify, those who suffer from OCD experience intrusive and unwanted thoughts and they are compelled to react in certain ways. The most widely known example of persons acting out their OCD are those who feel a need to keep obsessively cleaning and organizing.

Unfortunately, it has become common for any excessively neat or organized person to become mislabeled as OCD, but in actuality, obsessive compulsive disorder is more prevalent than one would think. This means that many who really would be diagnosed with the disorder are embarrassed or unsure if they really do suffer from OCD. But the International OCD Foundation points out that the disorder affects as many as 1 in 100 adults.

    What are signs of OCD in adults?

    Even if you didn’t recognize OCD as a child, it is still possible to determine whether you’re just obsessive with something in your life, or if you are actually suffering from a mental health disorder. Thankfully, it is easier than ever to find an adult test for OCD.

    The difficulty in diagnosing OCD lies in the fact that the symptoms vary from person to person; not everyone is going to be obsessed with the same thoughts and feelings. Thankfully, adult OCD symptom patterns do exist and can help aid with diagnosis. The International OCD Foundation finds that obsessive patterns fall into seven different categories: contamination, losing control, sexual, harm, religious, perfectionist, and “other”. If you are wondering what types of OCD you have, take this OCD subtype test. Compulsive patterns include: washing and cleaning, checking, repeating, mental compulsions and again, “other”.

    Here is a list of adult obsessive compulsive symptoms that is broken into the seven categories. These lists are not all inclusive, but are meant to display a general idea of areas adults with OCD will get stuck when battling obsessive compulsive disorder.

    Adults with OCD may become obsessed with the following:


    • Contamination:
    • Germs and diseases
    • Bodily fluids
    • Environmental contaminants
    • Household chemicals
    • People that you deem contaminated

    Sexual Thoughts:

    • Forbidden or perverse thoughts/images/urges
    • Incest
    • Pedophilia
    • Homosexuality
    • Aggressive sexual activity

    Losing control:

    • Fear of impulsive behavior resulting in negative consequences
    • Fear of accidentally speaking obscenely
    • Fear of stealing things
    • Fear of breaking the law


    • Fear of not doing something perfect
    • Desire to be even or exact


    • Fear of being responsible for harming others
    • Fear of something horrific happening


    • Obsession with morality and right vs. wrong
    • Fear of angering God
    • Fear of being blasphemous
    • Fear of going to Hell


    • Fear of physical illness
    • Fear of superstitions

    Adults with OCD can end up performing the following compulsive behaviors:

    Mental Compulsions:

    • Mentally reviewing events to prevent harm
    • Counting while completing tasks to end on a good or safe number
    • Praying to prevent harm
    • Ruminating about an obsession


    • Constantly checking locks, stoves, door handles, garage doors, etc.
    • Checking that mistakes weren’t made
    • Checking that no physical harm occurred to self or others

    Washing and Cleaning:

    • Cleaning objects excessively
    • Washing hands excessively or in a certain manner
    • Excessive showering or grooming


    • Repeating in multiples to end a ritual on a specific number or number of times
    • Repeating rituals
    • Repeating actions


    • Organizing and arranging excessively
    • Avoiding interactions/places that might trigger obsessions

    The compulsions mentioned above may manifest themselves in ways you don’t see specifically mentioned here. It may be helpful to think of them in terms of your home or work life. Especially, if you are experiencing high levels of anxiety in the home or office.

    Examples of how you might notice a friend of family member acting out OCD are, if you have a fear of contamination you may withdraw from intimacy with loved ones and sexual partners. If you fear harm, you may check and recheck stoves, locks, and light switches. For those who are perfectionists, you may find you spend so much time organizing and reorganizing your desk that you don’t complete all your tasks at work. Or, you may feel a compulsive need to plan out your work day far in advance, in order to avoid any mistakes.

    Again, every person with OCD experiences different symptoms because OCD attacks each individual differently based off of their particular fears, but the above are patterns, though generalized, may help you determine whether or not you should take steps towards getting a diagnosis and more importantly, OCD treatment.

    What do you do if you think you have OCD?

    First and foremost, it’s important to remember that there is effective treatment for OCD and that OCD doesn’t need rule your life. Obsessive compulsive disorder is an actual mental health condition and it is not “your fault” that you have these unwanted thoughts and behave in certain ways. That being said, what is crucial is recognizing the condition and getting help for OCD. Start by taking the free OCD Test and if results reveal a high probability towards OCD, seek out a mental health professional that specializes in treating OCD. Additionally, if you are trying to determine what type of OCD you have, the OCD subtype test will help.

    There are OCD treatments that can help, and it is possible to enjoy life with OCD.