The typical OCD sufferer performs tasks (or compulsions) to seek relief from obsession-related anxiety. To others, these tasks may appear odd and unnecessary. But for the sufferer, such tasks can feel critically important, and must be performed in particular ways to ward off dire consequences and to stop the stress from building up. Examples of these tasks: repeatedly checking that one’s parked car has been locked before leaving it; turning lights on and off a set number of times before exiting a room; repeatedly washing hands at regular intervals throughout the day.
Some of the symptoms are:
- Repeated hand washing.
- Repeated clearing of the throat, although nothing may need to be cleared.
- Specific counting systems — e.g., counting in groups of four, arranging objects in groups of three, grouping objects in odd/even numbered groups, etc.
- Perfectly aligning objects at complete, absolute right angles, or aligning objects perfectly parallel etc. This symptom is shared with OCPD and can be confused with this condition unless it is realized that in OCPD it is not stress-related.
- An obsession with numbers (be it in maths class, watching TV, or in the room). Some people are obsessed with even numbers while loathing odd numbers (they cause them a great deal of anxiety and often make the person uncomfortable or even angry) or vice versa.
- Twisting the head on a toy around, then twisting it all the way back exactly in the opposite direction.