Common Obsessions — Symptoms of Pediatric OCD

Obsessions — or recurrent, unwanted thoughts — are characteristics of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Below are common obsessions found in children and adolescents with OCD.


  • Excessive worry about:
    • Dirt, germs, bodily fluids, or illnesses.
    • Taking on personality traits of others.
    • Animals or insects causing illness.
    • Household cleaners, solvents, or environmental wastes leading to sickness or injury.

Fear of “Bad Things” Happening, Aggressive Thoughts

  • Excessive worry about:
    • Not being able to control impulses.
    • Harming someone whom he or she cares about.
    • Environmental disasters.
  • Excessive doubt about whether or not something in his or her possession was stolen.
  • Violent images of harm coming to self or others.

Need for Symmetry, Precision (“Just Right” OCD)

  • Intolerance of items out of place.
  • Intolerance of the way clothing feels or the textures of food.
  • Overwhelming feeling that something is incomplete and must be fixed or finished.
  • Extreme discomfort when something feels out of balance or uneven.
  • Difficulty making transitions.

Urge to Tell, Confess, Ask, Know With Certainty

  • Need to confess every detail about his or her day.
  • Uncertainty about understanding directions. Need to know exactly what to do at each step.
  • Intolerance for responses that are vague, or when given an answer such as “I don't know,” “maybe,” or “possibly.”

Saving, Hoarding

  • Overwhelming need to acquire objects, even if he or she has the item already.
  • Need to carry items around in pockets and collect things of no value (e.g., lint, pieces of paper from the floor).

Moral Dilemma and Religious Preoccupations (Scrupulosity)

  • Extreme fear of telling a lie or having an “impure” thought.
  • Excessive concern about behaviors or statements being right or wrong, or morally acceptable or offensive.
  • Excessive worry about offending religious figures or objects associated with his or her religion.
  • Rigid preoccupation with rules.
  • Distressing images or thoughts associated with what happens after death.
  • Preoccupation with making the “right” decision.

Sexual and “Forbidden” Thoughts

  • Images or thoughts that he or she has sexually assaulted a stranger or behaved in a sexually inappropriate way toward a loved one.
  • Uncharacteristic and unpleasant thoughts about sexual orientation.

Magical Thinking

  • Associating certain numbers, colors, words, or personal behaviors with the unrelated actions of others or the outcomes of events.

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.

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