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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which a student persistently focuses on obsessive thoughts, irrational fears, or repetitive rituals and routines.

OCD is an anxiety disorder in which a student persists in thinking about irrational fears that cause them significant stress; in an effort to ease their distress, the student is driven to engage in repetitive behaviors. The irrational thoughts and fears are often focused on a theme, such as a fear of germs or a fear of bad luck, and the repetitive behaviors often follow that theme (e.g. repeatedly washing hands, making certain the number of repetitions is a lucky number).

Often students feel they must perform certain rituals (e.g. counting items, checking repeatedly, doing a routine in a specific order) or something bad will happen. The student may or may not realize that their thoughts and behaviors are irrational. Students with OCD are not just perfectionists; their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors cause significant distress and interfere with their quality of life.

Observing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the Classroom

  • Student may frequently be absent or late to class
  • Students may act withdrawn or distracted
  • Students' interactions may be awkward or disjointed
  • Students may perseverate about seemingly trivial things
  • Students may seem anxious
  • Student may exhibit repetitive behaviors


Related Functional Characteristics

Anxiety : Students with OCD have pervasive, anxious thoughts about fears, images, or events.

Attentional Overfocus : Students with OCD may become fixated to the exclusion of anything else in the environment with the result that they are unaware of anyone or anything else around them.

Distracting Behavior : Students with OCD often engage in rituals such as counting out loud, repetitive behavior or asking the same question multiple times or are unable to move from one discussion to another.

Fatigue (Cognitive) : Students with OCD experience cognitive fatigue as a result of their perseveration on tasks.

Inability to Comprehend Social Cues : Obsessive compulsive disorder can impair students' self-reflection because fear and anxiety occupy all their thoughts.

Obsessive Behavior : Students engage in obsessive behavior because they believe the repetitive rituals will diminish their recurrent anxiety-inducing thoughts and impulses.

Perseveration : Repetitive actions such as checking that the door is locked or hand washing that the student feels compelled to do is one of the classic symptoms of OCD.

Sensory Distractibility : Students with OCD may be distracted or hypervigilant about sights, sounds, smells, or textures.

Time Management : Students with OCD who obsess over repetitive rituals and routines may have difficulties with time management and often are late.

The Building Accepting Campus Communities (BACC) project was funded by the US Department of Education Office of Secondary Education grant #P333A080070-09. The University of Nebraska does not discriminate based on gender, age, disability, race, color, religion, marital status, veteran's status, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.