Occasional thoughts about getting sick or about the safety of loved ones are normal. After all, everyone has moments of worry. When the thoughts become overwhelming, time-consuming and interfere with important activities, they can turn into obsessions.
Definition of Obsessions
Obsessions are thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again and feel out of a person’s control. The person finds them disturbing and unwanted, and usually knows that they don’t make sense. They come with uncomfortable feelings, such as fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a certain way.
Types of Obsessions
People with the anxiety disorder known as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) experience obsessions that often have themes to them, such as the following:
- Fear of contamination or dirt
- Having things orderly and symmetrical
- Aggressive or horrific impulses
- Sexual images or thoughts
Signs & Symptoms of Obsessions
OCD obsessions usually come up when a person is trying to think of or do other things. Obsession symptoms and signs may include the following:
- Fear of being contaminated by shaking hands or by touching objects others have touched
- Doubts that oneself has locked the door or turned off the stove
- Thoughts that oneself has hurt someone in a traffic accident
- Intense stress when objects aren’t orderly or facing the right way
- Images of hurting your child
- Impulses to shout obscenities in inappropriate situations
- Avoidance of situations that can trigger obsessions, such as shaking hands
- Replaying pornographic images in your mind
- Dermatitis because of frequent hand washing
- Skin lesions because of picking at your skin
- Hair loss or bald spots because of hair pulling
- International OCD Foundation. Obsessions and Compulsions. Retrieved February 6, 2013, from http://www.ocfoundation.org/o_c.aspx.
- Mayo Clinic. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms. Retrieved February 6, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/DS00189/DSECTION=risk-factors.
By C. J. Newton, MA, Therapists.com Editor