Everything from NIMH (National Institue of Mental Health) will be in italics. My personal thoughts will be in bold type.
For example, after touching a door-knob a person might have the thought that they may develop a disease as a result of contamination. They then experience anxiety, which is relieved when they wash their hands. This might be followed by the thought "but did I wash them properly?" causing an increase in anxiety once more, the hand-washing once again rewarded by the removal of anxiety (albeit briefly) and the cycle being repeated when thoughts of contamination re-occur. The distressing thoughts might then spread to fear of contamination from e.g. a chair (someone might have touched the chair after touching the door handle).
It should be noted that the distressing thoughts cannot be discounted. There is always the possibility that the door handle MIGHT have been touched by someone who was ill and so pass on an infection - the probability is very low; but not zero.
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 are 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, or repeatedly washing hands at regular intervals throughout the day.
Symptoms may include some, all, or perhaps none of the following:
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.
One serious symptom which stems from this is "counting" steps — e.g., feeling the necessity to take 12 steps to the car in the morning.
Perfectly aligning objects at complete, absolute right angles, or aligning objects perfectly parallel etc.
Fear of acting out on violent or aggressive impulses, or feeling overly responsible for the safety of others.
Sexual obsessions or unwanted sexual thoughts. Two classic examples are fear of being homosexual or fear of being a pedophile. In both cases, sufferers will obsess over whether or not they are genuinely aroused by the thoughts.
Strange and chronic worries about certain events such as sleeping, eating, leaving home, etc. without proper items. An example would be one who is unable to fall asleep without a metronome.
Fear of going crazy.
Having to "cancel out" bad thoughts with good thoughts. An example of this would be imagining harming a child and having to imagine a child playing happily to cancel it out. Sometimes, although this is uncommon, someone with OCD will escape into fantasy because of bad, unwanted thoughts.
A fear of contamination (see mysophobia); some sufferers may fear the presence of human body secretions such as saliva, blood, sweat, tears, vomit, or mucus, or excretions such as urine or feces. Some OCD sufferers even fear that the soap they are using is contaminated.
A need for both sides of the body to feel even. A person with OCD might walk down a sidewalk and step on a crack with the ball of their left foot, then feel the need to step on another crack with the ball of their right foot. If one hand gets wet, the sufferer may feel very uncomfortable if the other is not. If the sufferer is walking and bumps into something, he/she may hit the object or person back to feel a sense of evenness. These symptoms are also experienced in a reversed manner. Some sufferers would rather things to be uneven, favoring the preferred side of the body.
An obsession with numbers (be it in math class, watching TV, or in a room). Some people are obsessed with even numbers and loathe odd numbers (odd numbers 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.
Fear of transformation. A fear of transforming into someone or something else.
Losing one's self or taking on undesired characteristics is what creates the anxiety and fear. Rituals such as counting, blinking, checking, hand washing, etc., may eliminate the anxiety when they are done in a way which "feels right" to the sufferer.
In some cases, a pattern of uniformity on a bank account may indicate obsessive-compulsive spending. In addition, the affected person may feel complacent about or invincible against the economic issues.
Often, the brain challenges the person to a challenge that you feel you will die if you do not do it correctly.
A person compulsively checking their front door may argue that the time taken and stress caused by one more check of the front door is considerably less than the time and stress associated with being robbed, and thus the check is the better option. In practice, after that check, the individual is still not sure, and it is still better in terms of time and stress to do one more check, and this reasoning can continue as long as necessary.
OCD's effects on day-to-day life — particularly its substantial consumption of time — can produce difficulties with work, finances and relationships.
It is really hard to explain how you think or feel when you have OCD. It seems whenever I am trying to convey a point, I just can't shutup. I keep talking and talking, and usually end up making it worse, I am sure. At which point the discussion or issue may be over, but I will spend the next 1, 2, 3 or 50 hours thinking how can I fix this? How can I make the person not be mad at me, or see I am sorry? The person may not be mad, they may have already forgotten about our conversation, but I haven't. I go over and over and over it in my head. Just like the example above from the NIMH about "Did I wash them properly?" I ask myself that question about EVERYTHING I do. Did I explain properly, did I express my feelings properly, did I put this scrapbook page/card together properly, did I do WHATEVER properly or enough, or little enough or WHATEVER.
There are approximately 12 symptoms listed above, I have all of them. ALL of them at some time or another. Which COMPULSION I am doing at the moment depends on what my "stressor" is. I count a LOT, I count everything. And when I get something stuck in my head, it is there, and I may say it outloud for hours, days, weeks or months. Now you are asking? Did you ALWAYS do this, Lori? YES. I just hid it for most of my life. When people said "quit daydreaming", I wasn't I was counting or singing or whatever the compulsion is at the moment. When children are little I am sure this is the "parrot" syndrome. I am sure that people think ohhh how cute. Not so much. I WAS BEING COMPULSIVE! It is hard to explain to people why I worry about things, and how I worry, and why I can't stop. And why no matter how many times they tell me it is ok I can't let it go. It isn't that I don't believe them, and when they think that I feel TERRIBLE. It is that I feel like I need to say more, or less or whatever. This is my favorite quote about OCD - it really says it all about my daily life.
"Having OCD is like being allergic to life - every waking moment is spent in a state of mental hyper-sensitivity."
Imagine not being able to stand someone touching you, and they do it all day every day, no matter what you say or do to stop them. That is what life is like to me. Something is always scary. Something is always a stressor. Something is always sad. SOMEONE IS ALWAYS TOUCHING ME AND I DON'T LIKE IT! No matter what...My best friend uses the term people pleaser, and I honestly think I have that as a disease. I am so worried about making everyone happy, that I get myself in some jams. I tick people off, I make them upset, I hurt their feelings, all because i am COMPELLED to do what I think they want or what I think they need. I worry that people are mad at me all the time, constantly. Probably why I could never hold a job, I was too dang paranoid about everything. If I ask Keith once, I ask him 10 times a day "Are you mad? What's wrong?" Why can't I just fly by the seat of my pants (That's another bff term.) That truly sounds GLORIOUS. To just let go so much that you can do anything you want, anytime you want. That would be heaven. But I can't, I am bound to schedules and plans and routines and compulsions, so much so that I think I might eventually push every person I truly care about right out of my life. Because they can't understand no matter how badly I want them to, or need them to. What if one day they all just say FORGET IT, we can't DEAL with you anymore!!! What will I do then?
That fear of going crazy listed above, I have that fear along with the fear of being alone every day. You know those commercials about being a friend to a person with mental illness and how it is hard, but it means more to them than they can tell you. Those commercials are so true. I know I am irrational, I know I am paranoid, I know I am just plain CRAZY sometimes, but I can't help it. And I don't want to be that guy sitting on the couch playing the video game all alone because he drove everyone away.
Now that I have spilled my guts, had my good cry in the shower for the day, and feel a little better I am going to go scrapbook and try to relax...remember I said TRY, I didn't say I would...see here I go again...