OCD Glossary

Uncategorized Jul 17, 2017

One thing that can get really confusing when dealing with OCD, or anything for that matter is the terminology. I mean even “OCD” is an Acronym…which really stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. To hopefully clear up any confusion you may have, I have decided to make a list of common Words, Phrases, and Acronyms in this OCD Glossary. This way if you ever come across something and you are unsure as to what it means you can revert back to this list and you should be able to find the answer.

This list will be categorized alphabetically and I will do my best to continuously add words or phrases:


Adolescence: The period of a person’s life that incorporates the teenaged years all the way through the early twenties.

Analyzing past events – This is when one repeatedly tries to review past events to identify if certain things happened. An example would be someone thinking back to try and remember if they ever touched anything that was contaminated as a child. Or when one repeatedly replays conversations in their head to make sure they did not say anything inappropriate.

Antidepressants: are a type of medication that is primarily used in the treatment of depression, but also for treating OCD.

Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling, such as worry or fear, that can range from very mild to very severe. Anxiety can bring on several physical symptoms such as pain, headaches, perspiration, accelerated heartbeat, etc.

Avoidance is when one avoids a specific object or participating in something due to a fear of obsessive thoughts, or possible outcome.


Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): is another anxiety disorder, which was once known as Dysmorphophobia and is often considered part of the OCD spectrum. When a person suffers from BDD they are abnormally preoccupied with a very small or even totally imagined fault in their physical appearance. (i.e. one strand of hair may be out of place….or a small scar on my arm is visible.)


Checking: is when one repeatedly checks something as a result of fear or doubt raised by obsessive thoughts. People who engage in this compulsion will often check things over and over again. Some examples of checking include but are not limited to:

Clinical Psychologist- A Clinical Psychologist has a specialized qualification in mental health and is involved with individual assessments and psycho-therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of treatment that focuses on a combination of what a person is thinking (The Cognitive Aspect), and how this thinking impacts their actions or behavior (The Behavioral Aspect).

Compulsions- Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, ordering, checking or mental acts such as praying, counting, repeating words silently in response to an obsession. The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation.

Contamination- The presence of something infectious or dirty (i.e. germs). The contamination can occur on a body surface, in clothes, bedding, physical items, or consumables such as food or water

Counting – when one counts numbers or objects in order to distract themselves from unwanted thoughts


Desensitization is a diminished emotional response to a negative stimulus after repeated exposure to it.

Disorder: A situation or condition where there is a disturbance of normal functioning


Ego-syntonic- refers to thoughts, impulses, or ideas that are align with one’s self concept; that are compatible with one’s values and ways of thinking. They are consistent with one’s core personality and beliefs.

Ego-dystonic- refers to thoughts, impulses, and behaviors that are felt to be repugnant, distressing, unacceptable or inconsistent with one’s self-concept. They are not consistent with one’s  core personality and beliefs

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a form of treatment which involves exposing yourself to the fear object, situation, or event in a very safe and structured way. The idea is actually make yourself feel anxious, and then preventing yourself from doing compulsive rituals after exposure.


H-OCD – also known as Homosexual OCD (HOCD), Gay OCD, or Sexual Orientation OCD (SO-OCD) is form of OCD which an individual reports experiencing repeated, unwanted obsessions related to their sexual orientation. The term Sexual Orientation most accurately represents this sub-type of OCD because just as some “straight” people obsess or worry about being gay, some homosexuals (male and female) obsess or worry about of being “straight”.

Habituation- is a form of learning in which a person decreases their response to a stimulus after repeated engagement. Also can be referred to as Desensitization

Harm OCD– People with Harm OCD often worry that they will cause harm by impulsively hurting another person, usually a loved one. People with Harm OCD often over appraise violent or harmful thoughts to the point that if a random thought involving harm enters a person’s mind, the person begins to worry.


Impulses- An immediate desire to perform a certain action. Impulsiveness is an inability to resist acting on an urge regardless of the appropriateness or consequences.


Mental Rituals – Compulsions that are performed in someone’s mind to deal with obsessions (i.e. thought blocking, praying,  or thought suppression)


Perception: an individual’s way of understanding, or interpreting something or a situation

Psychiatrist A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists are involved in treating both the mental and physical aspects of a psychological condition. One main difference is a Psychiatrist is able to prescribe medication for a client whereas a psychologist is not.

Psychologist: A Psychologist is trained in the study of human behavior and tries to explain feelings, thoughts and behavior. Psychologists can provide assessments and treatment of a psychological condition that includes a wide range of psychological problems – anxiety, depression, self-esteem, sexuality, and marital problems.

Praying: when one engages in praying to God or any other religious figure to address unwanted thoughts.

Pure OCD: sometimes called “Pure O” is where a person experiences obsessions without performing outward compulsions. These obsessions are intrusive, unwanted thoughts, impulses or  images. However, in my experience there is almost always some type of compulsive behavior that accompanies people suffering from Pure OCD. The compulsions often include certain mental rituals, which makes them harder to identify.


Reassurance: is when someone seeks out some type of information to reassure them that their fear or doubt won’t happen. This is probably the ultimate compulsion, as all the compulsions described above virtually offer some type of reassurance for the person experiencing obsessions.

Rumination: Getting lost in thought – when one over analyzes anything in their mind. I often refer to it as getting lost-in-thought; others may refer to it as ruminating. The point being, a person may literally spend hours analyzing event after event. This is another tricky compulsion because like prayer, getting lost in thought is something a person can do and no one else will ever notice it is happening. Since analyzing past events is something everyone probably does from time to time, it may be hard to recognize as a compulsion.  For a simple guideline, remember that if you are starting to analyze a past event because of an unwanted thought or because you are feeling anxious, it is likely a compulsion.


Scrupulosity: This is form of OCD that involves intrusive Religious or Blasphemous thoughts. People that experience these types of obsessions often describe a sense of hyper-morality, and extreme concern about committing a sin. Other sub-categories can include a fear of going to Hell, selling your soul to the devil, or a fear or demonic possession.

Sexual Obsessions: These are obsessions which are sexual in nature and can range from thoughts involving children, loved ones, animals, rape, and religious figures. These sexual obsessions may also involve homosexual content and fears about sexual orientation. (See H-OCD)

Symmetry OCD: This is form of OCD that involves obsessions regarding the way objects are arranged. People who struggle with symmetry obsessions may feel very uncomfortable when in situations where objects are disorganized.

Thought blocking:  trying to prevent a thought from entering your mind

Thought suppression:  trying to stop thinking or focusing on certain thoughts

Thought replacement:  trying to purposely think of something in order to distract your mind from a negative thought

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