Some people try to cope with severe anxiety by repeatedly performing a task that may calm their fears. For some, this repeated action constitutes obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD.) The symptoms of OCD include the presence of recurrent, persistent and unwanted thoughts, impulses, or images (also known as obsessions) and/or the performance of repetitive (often seemingly purposeful) ritualistic behaviors (also known as compulsions).
People obsessively worried about contamination, for example, may wash their hands repeatedly. Someone who fears causing harm may check something—such as whether the gas is turned off—over and over. While individuals with OCD are usually aware their behavior is irrational, they feel unable to stop.