What are compulsions?
Compulsions are those things OCD sufferers do to try and correct/minimize/make normal obsessions. They are behaviors, actions or thought rituals that are carried out to reduce the distress caused by obsessions. They are typically performed over and over again in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by obsessions.
Any relief the sufferer achieves is short lived and temporary. Paradoxically, performing compulsions tends to reinforce the original obsession, creating a worsening situation.
Obsessional thoughts create the perception of some kind of threat. Compulsions are an attempt to minimize the threat. They are purposeful actions, behaviors or rituals designed to prevent perceived danger from befalling the sufferer, a loved one or other people.
OCD sufferers on some level recognize that the compulsions they carry out are irrational or senseless but nevertheless they feel compelled to perform them. This is not a pleasurable activity. The purpose of the compulsion is to remove or neutralize a perceived threat or to obtain a feeling that things are ‘just right’.
Compulsions often come with a heightened sense of responsibility. A sufferer may feel that a compulsion must be carried out in order to prevent harm from coming to other people.
There are two main types of compulsions: overt and covert. Overt compulsions are observable by others and include checking, ordering and washing. Covert compulsions (also known as cognitive compulsions) are mental actions including counting, substitution of disturbing images with neutral alternatives and repetition of neutralizing words.
It is common for sufferers to believe they have no compulsions simply because they do not have overt compulsions. The sufferer may still perform covert compulsions such as those above or reassurance seeking or avoidance of people, places, things.
There are many types of compulsions that OCD sufferers carry out and they can be very specific to a certain obsession.
Types of Compulsions
- Trying to solve the problem/answer the question.
- Seeking reassurance.
- Avoidance of people, places, things.
- Excessive or ritualized hand washing.
- Excessive or ritualized showering, bathing, teeth brushing, grooming or toilet routine.
- Cleaning of household items or other inanimate objects.
- Other measures to prevent or remove contact with contaminants.
- Checking locks, stove, appliances, etc.
- Checking that did not/will not harm others.
- Checking that did not/will not harm self.
- Checking that nothing terrible did/will happen.
- Checking that did not make mistake.
- Rereading or rewriting.
- Need to repeat routine activities (example: in/out door, up/down from chair).
- Counting compulsions.
- Ordering/arranging compulsions.
- Mental rituals.
- Excessive list making.
- Need to tell, ask or confess.
- Need to touch, tap or rub.
- Rituals involving blinking or staring.
- Ritualized eating behaviors.
- Superstitious behaviors.