Leigh Randa, PhD

Therapy with A Positive Belief in You.

What Are Checking Behaviors with OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder, or “OCD,” is a complex disorder loosely related to anxiety. It is best known for persistent thoughts (obsessions) that produce anxiety, possibly leading to behaviors, known as “compulsions,” designed to provide some relief from their distress.

Not all of those suffering from OCD struggle with compulsions. But even for those that do, compulsions are not always the same. One type of compulsion that is very common with OCD is a “checking” behavior, and although it is one of the most well-known examples of a compulsion, it is also often misunderstood.

Introduction to Checking Behaviors

“Checking,” as the word implies, involves checking some feature about the obsession in order to relieve some of the distress. For example, if your obsession is that you may be in danger of a house fire or some type of accidental injury, you may check the stove over and over again in order to make sure it is truly off, you might repeatedly check your body for injury, or even go to the doctor over and over again even though you keep getting a clean bill of health. That is a checking ritual.

Checking behaviors provide instant, momentary relief from the anxiety or distress, and then the whole cycle starts over again, with the obsession causing you to wonder “but what if?” and off you go again.

Examples of Checking Behaviors

Checking compulsions or rituals vary depending on the obsessions, and the same obsession may have several different ritual behaviors associated with it.  Some examples of checking behaviors include:

  • Checking the door to see if it is locked.
  • Calling friends or family to see if they are hurt.
  • Asking loved ones if they are okay to see if they are upset with you.
  • Examining their or your own body for cuts, bruises, or signs of illness.
  • Opening an envelope to see if you made any errors in your letters.
  • Imagining a sexual image to see if you are aroused by the thought.
  • Turning on all the lights to see if you missed an intruder standing in plain sight.

Compulsions are repetitive, such as opening and closing a lock multiple times in succession to see if it works. With severe OCD, the checking behavior may occur multiple times a day, taking up considerable time and interferes with your ability to function.

Checking Behaviors and Other OCD Compulsions

Checking is only one of many different compulsions caused by obsessive compulsive disorder. If you struggle with OCD in Kansas City, MO, and would like to learn more about treatment, please call today at 858.224.3767 or email me at DrRanda@FriendlyPsychology.com.

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