OCD and Compulsive Behaviour (Compulsions)
We can't stop doing it. We may know that it is wrong or stupid – but we cannot help it, we have to
Compulsive behaviour lies outside our rational thought processes. It is beyond our control for it is driven by something far
more powerful than logic ... fear.
Compulsions are often related to obsessions in which possible threats that exist for everyone become exaggerated.
A switch left on may cause a fire, as could an iron or oven, a door left open may result in burglary and attack, unseen
germs may give us a disease.
Taking action against the threat eases our anxiety to some extent. For example, contamination fears (over ourselves or
others) leads to cleaning and washing since cleanliness does prevent infection and disease.
Common compulsions involve: (List in no particular order)
• Extreme washing and cleaning.
• Repeatedly checking that switches are off and doors are locked.
• Having to say things or touch things a certain number of times.
• Hair pulling (Trichotillomania).
• Incessant tidying and ordering.
• Compulsive buying.
For compulsive behaviours to be diagnosed as a problem a number of criteria are considered. These include:-
They must be present on most days for at least 2
They must be a source of distress or interference
They must be recognized as the individual's
There must be at least one act that
is still resisted unsuccessfully, even though others may be present which the sufferer no longer resists.
The thought of carrying out the act must not
in itself be pleasurable.
The acts must be unpleasantly repetitive.
Compulsions can ruin our lives, yet, like obsessions, they are merely exaggerated forms of normal behaviour. We all go through a stage with a
compulsive element in our development.
Children like repetitive games, watch the same things over and over and have 'magic' rituals that make them feel safe.
Ordering reflects the way our mind works in categorising and processing information – it is part of human nature.
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"an inner drive that causes a person to perform actions, often repetitive, against his or her will"
(Collins English Dictionary)