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Sensory, NJRE and Incompleteness Obsessions

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Types of Sensory Phenomena in OCD:

Tactile Sensations:

  • Some individuals with OCD may experience tactile sensations, such as a feeling of dirtiness or contamination on their skin. This can lead to compulsive washing rituals to alleviate the perceived contamination.

  • Textural or Kinaesthetic Sensations:

  • People with OCD may be sensitive to specific textures or may experience a need for symmetry or balance in their movements. Compulsions may involve arranging objects in a specific way or repeating physical actions to achieve a sense of "just right" or completeness.

  • Visual Sensations:

  • Visual perceptions, such as a need for symmetry or alignment, may drive compulsive behaviours. For example, an individual might feel compelled to arrange items in a particular order or repeatedly check the alignment of objects.

  • Auditory Sensations:

  • Some individuals with OCD may experience distressing auditory sensations or intrusive sounds. Compulsions may involve repetitive actions aimed at reducing the anxiety associated with these perceived sounds.

  • Internal Sensations:

  • Sensations that are internal, such as discomfort or tension in the body, can also drive compulsions. Individuals may engage in repetitive behaviours to alleviate the discomfort or to achieve a specific internal "feeling" of relief.

Examples of Sensory-Driven Compulsions:

Tactile Compulsions:

  • Excessive hand-washing or cleaning rituals driven by a sensation of contamination on the skin.

  • Avoidance of specific textures or materials due to discomfort.

  • Visual Compulsions:

  • Arranging objects in a specific order or pattern to achieve a visually "correct" or symmetrical appearance.

  • Repeatedly checking or counting items to ensure they are in the desired order.

  • Kinaesthetic Compulsions:

  • Engaging in specific physical movements or rituals until they feel "just right."

  • Repeating actions until a particular sensation of completeness or symmetry is achieved.

  • Auditory Compulsions:

  • Repetitive behaviours or rituals performed in response to distressing internal sounds or intrusive auditory sensations.

  • Checking and rechecking to ensure that sounds (e.g., doors closing) are not perceived as threatening.

  • Internal Sensations:

  • Engaging in rituals to reduce internal tension or discomfort, such as mental counting or repeating phrases.

  • Repeating actions until a subjective sense of relief is achieved.

The concepts of "incompleteness" and "Not just right experiences" are important aspects of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). These phenomena contribute to the distress and compulsive behaviors that individuals with OCD experience. Understanding these concepts sheds light on the unique nature of obsessions and the behaviors individuals engage in to alleviate the associated anxiety.

Incompleteness in OCD:

Definition: Incompleteness in OCD refers to a subjective feeling or belief that something is not quite right or finished. Individuals with OCD may experience a persistent sense of dissatisfaction or discomfort with their actions, thoughts, or surroundings.

Role in Obsessions:

  • Incompleteness often plays a significant role in obsessive doubts. Individuals may feel that they have not done something correctly, finished a task adequately, or that something important has been overlooked.

  • Compulsive Behaviours:

  • Compulsions in response to feelings of incompleteness typically involve repetitive actions or mental rituals aimed at achieving a sense of completion. Individuals may engage in checking, arranging, or repeating behaviours to alleviate the discomfort associated with the perceived incompleteness.

  • Examples:

  • A person may repeatedly check whether doors are locked or appliances are turned off due to a persistent sense that the task is incomplete.

  • Completing a routine action, such as washing hands, may not provide a feeling of satisfaction, leading to additional repetitions.

"Not Just Right" Experiences in OCD:



  • "Not just right experiences" refer to subjective feelings that things are not quite right, even if there is no concrete reason for dissatisfaction. Individuals with OCD may describe a sense of discomfort or unease without being able to pinpoint a specific issue.

  • Role in Compulsions:

  • "Not just right experiences" contribute to the need for ritualistic behaviours to counteract the discomfort. Individuals may feel compelled to repeat actions until they achieve a sense of things being "just right."

  • Compulsive Behaviours:

  • Compulsions driven by "not just right experiences" are often aimed at achieving a specific internal feeling of completeness or satisfaction. This may involve repeating actions, arranging items, or engaging in mental rituals.

  • Examples:

  • After completing a routine task, such as locking the door, an individual may experience a sense that it is not done correctly, leading to repeated checking.

  • Arranging items in a particular order may be driven by a persistent feeling that the arrangement is not just right.

Symmetry OCD, also known as Symmetry Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is a subtype of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) characterised by obsessions and compulsions related to achieving perfect symmetry or balance. Individuals with symmetry OCD may experience intrusive thoughts or fears related to imbalance, asymmetry, or a perceived lack of order. These obsessions can lead to compulsive behaviours aimed at restoring symmetry and reducing distress.

Characteristics of Symmetry OCD:



  • Fear of Imbalance: Individuals may experience obsessive thoughts about the fear of imbalance, unevenness, or asymmetry in their surroundings.

  • Preoccupation with Symmetry: Thoughts may centre around the need for perfect symmetry in personal appearance, arrangements, or daily routines.

  • Compulsions:

  • Repetitive Behaviours: Individuals may engage in repetitive behaviours to achieve or restore symmetry. This could include arranging objects symmetrically, repeating actions until they feel "just right," or adjusting personal belongings to achieve a sense of balance.

  • Counting Rituals: Counting objects or performing actions a specific number of times to maintain symmetry is a common compulsion.

  • Mirror Checking: Excessive checking in mirrors to ensure that one's appearance is perfectly symmetrical.

  • Impact on Daily Life:

  • Time-Consuming: Symmetry-related compulsions can be time-consuming, leading to a significant impact on daily activities and routines.

  • Interference with Functioning: The need for symmetry may interfere with work, relationships, and social activities, as individuals prioritise compulsions over other responsibilities.

  • Distress and Anxiety:

  • Intense Anxiety: Individuals with symmetry OCD often experience intense anxiety and distress when they perceive asymmetry or are unable to achieve a sense of balance.

  • Discomfort in Unsymmetrical Environments: Being in environments perceived as unsymmetrical may provoke discomfort and heightened anxiety.

  • Perfectionism:

  • High Standards: There is often a sense of perfectionism associated with symmetry OCD, where individuals have high standards for order and balance.

  • Fear of Consequences: There may be a fear that if symmetry is not achieved, something negative or catastrophic will happen.

Symmetry OCD, like other subtypes of OCD, can vary in severity. It's important for individuals experiencing symptoms to seek professional help from a mental health provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, who can conduct a thorough assessment and develop a tailored treatment plan. With appropriate treatment and support, individuals with symmetry OCD can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.


Treatment Approaches:


Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP):

  • ERP, a primary therapeutic approach for OCD, involves exposing individuals to situations that trigger obsessions (including sensory phenomena) and preventing them from engaging in compulsive behaviours.

  • Mindfulness-Based Interventions:

  • Mindfulness techniques can help individuals become aware of sensory experiences without reacting compulsively. This includes acceptance of the sensations without engaging in ritualistic responses.

  • Cognitive Restructuring:

  • Identifying and challenging maladaptive beliefs related to sensory phenomena and the perceived consequences of not engaging in compulsive behaviours.

  • Gradual Exposure and Habituation:

  • Gradual exposure to distressing sensory stimuli, coupled with preventing compulsive responses, can lead to habituation, where the distress diminishes over time.

It's important to note that the treatment of sensory-driven compulsions is individualised, and therapy is often tailored to address specific sensory experiences and associated rituals. Working with a mental health professional experienced in treating OCD can be crucial for developing an effective treatment plan.

Addressing incompleteness and "not just right experiences" is crucial for comprehensive treatment in individuals with OCD. Therapeutic interventions aim to disrupt the cycle of obsessions and compulsions, helping individuals learn to tolerate and manage the discomfort associated with these feelings. Working with a mental health professional experienced in treating OCD is essential for developing and implementing effective treatment strategies.

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