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26 Pictures That Show What OCD Really 'Looks' Like

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What does obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) “look” like? According to the internet, it looks like this:

someone counting peas

Or this:

cereal organized by shape and color

But the truth is, there’s no “look” to having OCD — because despite what popular culture would have you believe, it’s not just about the compulsions but also the thought processes behind these actions, the invisible part of the story you can’t see from stereotypical depictions of OCD.

So, we asked people in our mental health community who live with OCD to give us their version of pictures that are “totally OCD.” We hope this gives you a new perspective into what OCD really is and shows how it manifests in more ways than you might think.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1.  A photograph of a woman tugging on her hair Image via Laura B.


A woman with negative words on her face

Image via Laura B.


man in a snow globe Image via Danielle Hark

4.Giving yourself awful open wounds and scars from picking at every single blemish in your face.”

A woman with scars on your face

Image via Alice H.

5. “Wherever I’ve had to be for a significant portion of my time (home, school, work, etc.) I’ve created ‘safe’ spaces to help me get through the day. As heinous as I consider public bathrooms, they’re a good place to hide when you need to pull yourself together. This was a curtained changing area in a secluded bathroom at college where I spent a lot of my free time. It’s not ‘normal,’ but you have to do what makes you feel better out there.”

A woman sitting behind a curtainImage via Alyssa H.

6. “OCD looks like me because there are many different ways someone can have OCD. Intrusive, obsessive thoughts are hard to show. We all are the definition of OCD.”

Selfie Image via Hayley T.

7. “While on break over the summer from her residential OCD treatment. This is what OCD looks like. From the outside it can look beautiful, but the inside is being destroyed by many demanding thoughts.”

Two people standing by the water

Image via Sara H.

8.My hands are breaking out because I’ve been washing them so much. I work in the food industry and I’m terrified I’ll get someone sick.”

red handsImage via Elizabeth C.

9. “This is the face of OCD. My mind was being barraged with intrusive thoughts when I snapped this photo. I was hiding under my desk at my workplace because I could barely handle myself.”


Image via Emily D.

10. “Sore hands from cleaning products, hot water,and scrubbing; fear that my children are sick and will die because I won’t catch some symptoms or clean the germs.”

selfie Image via Brianna J.

11. “I took this a while ago to show people what I deal with every day. I had to write this for the freezer at work. I couldn’t get the alignment of the words right, theres no fixing my terrible handwriting though. I also took multiple pictures before I got this one right.”

4 sticky notes that read: Please do not block"Image via Stephanie F.

12. “Me. I am what OCD looks like, with anxiety and depression too. At the same time, however, I am not defined by my diagnoses. I might look ‘pulled together’ here, but mental illness is invisible. Invisible, yet loud. But bravery and advocacy are louder.”


Image via Brianna P.


notebookImage via Greyson K.

14. “Pre-wisdom teeth removal searching.”

tabs open on an iphone

Image via Kyra O.

15.  drawing of a girl with chains around her head Image via OCD Thoughts

16. “Constantly biting my lips until they are red and bloody.”


Image via Joanna Y.

17. “For me, it looks like a messy room because if I start to organize it and I can’t get it all to match my pattern, I’ll have a complete break down.”

messy room Image via Caitlin M.

18. “Lying in bed completely exhausted because of everything that happened over the day. Eyes red and swollen from crying so much.”

woman wrapped up in a blanket, eyes red from crying

Image via Caro R.

19. “Washing and chewing my hands raw – usually until they bleed (this pic was taken on a good day). Driving halfway to the grocery store (or whatever destination) only to have to drive back home and tug on the door knob a specific amount of times to ensure my front door is locked.”

red and sore fingers Image via Kah R.

20. “An extremely difficult, fragile and terrifying topic for a person with OCD, but here goes. This is what my OCD looks like; a folder labeled ‘OCD’ which contains thousands of images of kids from ad online. The reason? So I can calm my mind whenever a ‘false memory’ occurs. My particular type of OCD is Harm OCD (a type of Pure O). It makes me believe I am capable of horrendous crimes, such as child abuse. Each time I see an image of a child online, I panic then screenshot it for confirmation, which will later be used for reassurance. Before this, I used to carry out daily rituals which would take four to six hours of forcing myself to remember every child I had seen that day, just to make sure that they were all safe. Of course this only works for the kids I see online. This is why I am completely housebound because I cannot bring myself to see a child out in the real world without feeling terrified of my own mind. For me, this is due to a repressed childhood abuse that I suffered from the ages 8-12. The result: a mind that is tortured by fears of ‘what ifs.’”

screenshots on a computer Image via Autumn A.

21. “Always worried about everything. Mind running a mile a minute.”

image of a girl with her mouth open

Image via Hayley T.

22. “Couldn’t even start coloring to de-stress because they weren’t in order, so instead I spent 20 minutes stressing out putting them in color order.”

colored pencils Image via Trystan P.

23. “Crying on the floor due to obsessions while my dog comforts me and licks up the tears.”

A woman who's crying is licked by her dog

Image via Jennifer S.

24. “A picture of my room at the psychiatric ward in the hospital. My OCD got the best of me and I was contemplating suicide as a way out. It was a dark time but I came out on the other side with a bigger team to help me cope with my Pure OCD.”

hospital bed Image via Wendy

25.My name is Kristen I am a 19-year-old student and an aspiring art therapist, as I aspire to help others going through similar things as myself. As a 9-year-old child I was diagnosed with OCD/anxiety… I wanted to express my own personal feelings through my artwork. My project was based on myself and how I feel… Creating art work based on mental health has been by far the best project I have ever done and allows people to try to understand mental health and how difficult it is to live with.”

A man with his head in his hands Image via Kristen H.

26. “Crying for hours because I’m not sure if I locked the door of my car or not, then remembering I needed more hand lotion cause I’m almost out and I need to go get it now, cause I can’t just have one, I need to always own two, but I have to wait.”

Woman crying

Image via Cori F.

 26 Pictures That Show What OCD Really 'Looks' Like
Originally published: January 11, 2017
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