Everyone has different opinions and ways of doing things, and that’s ok! The way we organize or clean our room, the way we pack our school bag or the way we prepare our food for instance. Some people are very particular, neater or more organized than others and like things done in a specific way. These preferences can be really simple and probably don’t affect our lives at all. We may not even notice that we have specific ways of doing things because it’s become so natural to us.

However, in some cases, we may have obsessive habits that take up a huge part of our day and interfere with our daily life. We may experience unpleasant thoughts that worry us. This can involve getting into the habit of repeatedly worrying about the same things and becoming attached to these thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts can be really disturbing or severe, like the thought of something happening to a loved one. To deal with this, we will develop compulsions. This means we create repetitive behaviours that we do to try to ignore or suppress the obsessive thoughts that won’t go away.

Because of these negative thoughts, there may be an urge to do certain things, such as involuntary rituals that must be done to reduce anxiety. When these rituals are not done, the compulsive thoughts can become too much and cause more fear that something bad will happen.


Some of the most common examples of these behaviors are:

  • Cleaning often and repeatedly.
  • Thinking sentences over and over until it ‘feels right’.
  • Having to redo, rewrite or reread things in a certain way several times.
  • Repeating a certain word or phrase over and over, until it is said a certain number of times or in exactly the ‘right way.
  • Washing hands often and in a specific way.
  • Checking doors in the house several times to make sure they are locked, or going in and out of a door several times in a row.
  • Checking the lights in the house several times to make sure they are off before you leave.
  • Checking schoolwork a certain number of times to make sure it is done properly.
  • Chew each bite the same number of times on both sides.
  • Counting all objects and items to certain good numbers to avoid unlucky numbers.
  • Having to put things in a certain, equal, symmetrical order.



Of course, many of us do these things just out of habit, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an issue. For example, if your parents get mad when you forget the lights on in a room, its normal that you double check that the lights are off. This is only an issue when the action becomes such a big part of your day that you don’t feel that you can live a normal life.

These unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) can be very disturbing and reach a point where you can no longer sleep, relax and enjoy your day. When this is the case, getting professional help is needed to treat the issue. If you’re confused about the way you react to situations, talking with someone can really help!


Talk to a trusted adult, like a parent, family member, teacher, school counselor or your doctor.  You should especially do this if you feel like your daily life is filled with anxious thoughts and rituals you ‘have’ to do.

If you notice these behaviours in your friends or relatives, there are a few things you can do to show them that you care about them:

  • Be there for them: make yourself available online, in person on the phone. Plan fun activities with them, share your feelings too!
  • Listen: listen without distraction. You don’t need to have answers, advice or solutions just show you are interested and be there for them.
  • Encourage: Invite them to inform a trusted adult (like a parent, family member, teacher, school counselor or their doctor) and seek help from a professional.