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Checking Compulsions

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OCD Around Checking:

  • Obsessions:

  • Doubt and Uncertainty: Persistent doubt about whether a task or action has been completed properly.

  • Fear of Harm: Anxiety about potential harm due to negligence or oversight.

  • Magical Thinking: Belief that performing certain actions can prevent harm.

  • Compulsions:

  • Repetitive Checking: Checking and rechecking tasks, locks, or appliances.

  • Counting Rituals: Counting actions or items as a way to prevent harm.

  • Mental Checking: Repeatedly reviewing thoughts or actions mentally.

In all these cases, it's essential to recognise that OCD is a chronic condition that can significantly impact a person's daily functioning and quality of life. Effective treatment often involves a multidisciplinary approach, combining psychotherapy, medication, and support from mental health professionals. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of OCD, seeking professional help is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan

Checking Compulsions:

Repetitive Checking of Doors and Locks:

  • Lock Checking: Repeatedly checking whether doors, windows, or other entry points are locked.

  • Appliance Checking: Constantly verifying that household appliances are turned off.

  • Verification of Personal Items:

  • Wallet or Purse Checking: Repeatedly checking the contents of a wallet or purse to ensure nothing is missing.

  • Key Checking: Verifying the presence and location of keys multiple times.Rechecking Tasks:

  • Oven or Stove Checking: Repeatedly checking to confirm that the oven or stove is turned off.

  • Electronics Checking: Double-checking that electronic devices are turned off or unplugged.

  • Confirmation of Safety Measures:

  • Gas or Water Checking: Repeatedly checking gas or water outlets to ensure they are turned off.

  • Alarm System Checking: Constantly verifying the status of home security systems.

  • Health-Related Checking:

  • Body Checking: Repeatedly checking one's body for signs of illness or abnormalities.

  • Medical Test Checking: Constantly seeking medical tests or examinations to confirm health.

  • Financial Checking:

  • Bank Statement Checking: Repeatedly checking bank statements or financial records for errors.

  • Transaction Verification: Verifying financial transactions multiple times.


Characteristics of Checking Compulsions:



  • Engaging in checking rituals can be time-consuming, leading to delays in daily activities or routines.

  • Interference with Daily Life:

  • Compulsive checking can interfere with work, social activities, and relationships, causing distress and frustration.

  • Temporary Relief:

  • While checking behaviours provide temporary relief, the distress usually returns, leading to a cycle of repetitive rituals.

  • Impact on Relationships:

  • Repeated checking can strain relationships, as partners, family members, or friends may find the behaviours frustrating or disruptive.

  • Variability in Intensity:

  • The intensity and frequency of checking compulsions can vary among individuals. Some may engage in overt, observable checking behaviours, while others may perform covert mental rituals.

Cognitive Aspects:

Memory Distrust in OCD:


  • Memory distrust in OCD refers to the lack of confidence or trust in one's own memory. Individuals with OCD may doubt their ability to accurately remember whether they performed certain actions, leading to persistent uncertainty and anxiety.

  • Role in OCD Symptoms:

  • Memory distrust plays a significant role in the development and maintenance of checking compulsions. Individuals may experience intrusive doubts about whether they have completed specific tasks or taken certain precautions.

  • Obsessive Doubts:

  • Common obsessive doubts related to memory distrust include concerns about leaving doors unlocked, appliances turned on, or other potential safety hazards. These doubts trigger anxiety and the need to seek reassurance or engage in checking behaviours.

Checking Compulsions in OCD:



  • Checking compulsions involve repetitive behaviours or mental acts that individuals with OCD perform to alleviate anxiety or prevent a feared event. Checking is a response to obsessive doubts and serves as a way to gain reassurance and certainty.

  • Common Checking Behaviours:

  • Examples of checking compulsions include repeatedly checking doors, windows, stoves, electrical appliances, or personal belongings to ensure they are secure and pose no danger.

  • Temporary Relief:

  • Engaging in checking behaviours provides individuals with temporary relief from the distress associated with obsessive doubts. However, the relief is short-lived, and the cycle of doubt and checking often continues.

  • Impact on Daily Life:

  • Checking compulsions can be time-consuming and interfere with daily activities, leading to disruptions in work, relationships, and overall functioning.


Memory Distrust:

  • Memory distrust contributes to the need for checking. Individuals may doubt their ability to remember whether they completed specific actions, leading to repetitive and ritualistic checking to alleviate uncertainty.

  • Catastrophic Thinking:

  • Individuals with OCD often engage in catastrophic thinking, imagining the worst possible consequences if they fail to check or if their memory is inaccurate. This further fuels the need for checking behaviours.

  • Reassurance-Seeking:

  • Seeking reassurance from others about the completion of tasks or the safety of the environment is a common cognitive aspect of checking compulsions. Reassurance provides temporary relief but reinforces the cycle.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT):

  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a specific type of CBT, involves gradually exposing individuals to situations that trigger checking obsessions without allowing the compulsive behaviors to occur.

  • Mindfulness-Based Approaches:

  • Mindfulness techniques can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and sensations without acting on compulsions.

  • Gradual Reduction of Rituals:

  • Working with a therapist to develop a step-by-step plan to gradually reduce the frequency and intensity of checking behaviors.


Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP):

  • ERP is a primary treatment for checking compulsions. It involves exposing individuals to situations that trigger obsessive doubts (exposure) while preventing them from engaging in checking behaviors (response prevention).

  • Cognitive Restructuring:

  • Identifying and challenging maladaptive beliefs related to memory distrust and the perceived consequences of not checking.

  • Mindfulness and Acceptance:

  • Incorporating mindfulness techniques to help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and sensations without immediately acting on them.

  • Gradual Reduction of Checking:

  • Developing a step-by-step plan to gradually reduce the frequency and intensity of checking behaviours.

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