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Common Compulsions — Symptoms of Pediatric OCD

UPMC Content 2

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.