Common Compulsions — Symptoms of Pediatric OCD

Compulsions, or repetitive behaviors, are characteristics of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). They help relieve distress from obsessions.

Following are common compulsions found in children and adolescents with OCD.

Washing, Cleaning, Grooming

  • Need to wash a certain number of times or a certain way to be “clean enough.”
  • Excessive use of soap or cleaning products.
  • Excessive use of toilet paper.
  • Extreme caution to prevent certain objects from touching other objects or people he or she perceives to be contaminated.

Repeating, Redoing

  • Rewriting.
  • Saying a phrase repeatedly until it's “just right.”
  • Rereading.
  • Retracing steps.

Touching, Tapping

  • Touching or tapping corners of objects.
  • Touching objects that others have just touched.


  • Repeatedly checking to make sure:
    • Doors and windows are closed and locked.
    • All the lights are off.
    • The stove is turned off or appliances are unplugged.
    • All necessary items are in his or her book bag.
  • Excessively checking the time.
  • Repeatedly reviewing his or her answers on a test to the point of not finishing or being late.


  • Counting things such as steps, objects, words, or numbers.
  • Repeated mental computations.

Ordering, Arranging

  • Lining up items in a certain way.
  • Organizing school work or objects in his or her room according to a certain pattern.
  • Straightening books or papers until they are “even.”
  • Excessively categorizing music, videos, games, or movies.

Reassurance seeking

  • Repeated questions about whether or not he or she:
    • Understood directions.
    • Will get sick.
    • Is going to be late.
  • Need to know details.
  • Repeated requests for parents or others to feel his or her forehead for signs of a fever.
  • Excessive questioning about whether or not food was prepared correctly.

Confessing, Apologizing

  • Need to tell excessive details.
  • Apologizing for minor mistakes.
  • Often, repeatedly apologizing not only for his or her own actions but for the actions of others.

Saving, Hoarding

  • Inability to throw away items that others view as “junk” or garbage:
    • Broken toys.
    • Used tissues.
    • Useless tools.
    • Old worksheets.
    • Food wrappers.

Mental Rituals

  • Excessive and ritualized prayers.
  • Visualizing a “good“ thought to cancel out a “bad“ thought.
  • Mentally repeating certain words or numbers.

Make an Appointment with the Pediatric OCD Program

To a schedule an evaluation of your child's symptoms to see if they meet the criteria for an OCD diagnosis, or to discuss OCD treatment options, call 412-235-5354.

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |