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What you need to know about compulsive behavior
Compulsive behaviors can be inherited or learned over a period of time. This article explains the different kinds of compulsive behaviors and how to recognize them. - photo by Kitt Wakeley
Compulsive behavior comes in many forms where sufferers are tormented with recurrent images, thoughts and impulses. Its an anxiety disorder thats categorized as OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In severe cases, it can even dramatically disrupt lives and cause extreme distress.

Its really a trap for people who suffer with is, as you will end up spending an excessive amount of time trying to go through the motions. When youre stuck in this cycle, it can become impossible for someone to even maintain normal human relationships.

What are the different types of compulsive behavior?

  • Fear of contamination
  • Hoarding
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Repeated checking
With over 2 million Americans affected by this disease, theres a pretty good chance that you know someone suffering from it.

Compulsive behavior

Compulsions are behaviors that are displayed by individuals with obsessions. By engaging in compulsive behaviors, it can help relieve some of the stress and anxiety caused by obsessions.

Its similar to what addicts experience as the compulsive behavior is a direct result of excessive thought.


Obsessions can be explained as ideas, thoughts and images that you cant escape from.

Having said that, its normal for people to have disturbing thoughts every now and again, but people with OCD cant escape these thoughts no matter what they do to be rid of them.

These recurring thoughts and images can have a debilitating effect on someone suffering from OCD.

Obsessions without compulsions

This disease isnt something thats black and white. You can have obsessions without any physical behavior thats linked to it.

For example, you might keep worrying about a loved one far away. In this situation, although your worry can be continuous and consuming, you cant control the situation as you cant do anything about it.

So to be diagnosed with OCD can be difficult as there isnt any compulsive behavior associated with it.

How does it manifest itself?

Fear of contamination

Have you ever noticed someone trying to open a door without touching the doorknob or maybe you do it yourself? Thats compulsive behavior in action.

People who suffer from this disorder will shower several times a day and wash their hands over and over again.

Further, they will also keep cleaning their homes to make sure that its free of germs and spotless.


The compulsion to hoard everything that an individual has ever owned comes from an emotional attachment to stuff. As a result, the very thought of throwing it away can cause a lot of distress.

Intrusive thoughts

Sufferers tend to have recurring images with intrusive thoughts that are usually interpreted as horrific. This can manifest itself by mentally replaying something that happened in the past, over and over again.

When this happens, it can trap someone within their home out of fear that the past can repeat itself if they go outside.

Repeatedly checking

Repeatedly checking and intrusive thoughts are connected. The result of intrusive thoughts is the behavior of repeatedly checking things to make sure that everything is safe.

Its the same thing when you walk around the house checking the windows and doors over and over again fearing that someone might break in.

We still dont understand what causes OCD, but its known to have a genetic connection. At the same time, such behaviors can also be learned over a long period of time.

If anything in the article sounds familiar, reach out to a medical professional as theres help out there to manage and keep your compulsions in check.
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