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Checking OCD involves fear and uncertainty that something potentially dangerous is left on or an entry point is left unlocked. These situations, among others, cause significant distress and anxiety. This leads to certainty-seeking and/or relief-seeking compulsions which include checking and rechecking doors, windows, and appliances. Avoidance and reassurance from others function to relieve the distress as well. Ultimately, certainty is desperately sought in an effort to reduce or eliminate the risk of harm to self or others.


  • fears about causing harm to self or others either by accident or intentionally

  • doubts around past actions like locking the door or turning off the stove

  • wondering if the intrusive thought is just a thought or if it is a memory from an actual event

  • fears about making mistakes

  • fears about losing something regardless of value


  • avoidance of appliances, faucets, windows and doors

  • ensuring you are not the last the leave to house so as to avoid having to lock up

  • looking closely for an extended period of time to verify it is off/closed/locked

  • taking photos during checking to refer back to later when uncertainty reappears

  • checking and rechecking items or appliances

  • reviewing emails and texts countless times to ensure there are no mistakes

  • self-reassurance that you completed the task correctly/fully

  • asking others for reassurance that you completed the task correctly/fully

  • replaying events in your mind to get certainty

The Problem with Seeking Certainty

Experiencing doubt is natural. It can even be expected when the task is a simple, rote action that occurs daily or more often. Responding to each instance of doubt with certainty-seeking and compulsions, however, is not natural. To habitually seek relief through compulsions such as replaying the mental video, walking back to look and verify yourself, or asking someone to confirm you performed the action is time-consuming and likely not sustainable. But more importantly, it perpetuates an overreliance on being 100% sure before life can resume. Struggling with being okay when uncertainty shows up is a problem that will not resolve on its own. 

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