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Is Repeating & Redoing a Part of OCD?

Yes, it can be. 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a multifaceted anxiety condition that can touch several areas of one’s life. Although, the term, “OCD,” is often thrown as a “catchphrase,” joke, verbal weapon, and/or form of entertainment (i.e., in movies, television shows, and songs), the truth is OCD is a real condition that can affect a lot of lives. 

OCD involves non-stop, unwanted, involuntary, and repetitive intrusive thoughts, urges, mental images, emotions, fears, doubts (obsessions), and/or ritualistic behaviors (compulsions). No one wants to have OCD. OCD is no fun. OCD is a “thief’ in the sense that it “robs” people of their freedom to have a life independent of it. OCD is powerful and unrelenting, filtering over into your personal, social, and even work lives. 

It isolates you and prevents you from developing meaningful relationships with other people, even romantic ones and friendships. Although OCD is a lonely condition, it is fairly common, affecting millions of people. You do not have to have both obsessions and compulsions to be diagnosed with OCD. In other words, you can have just obsessions or just compulsions – and still, have OCD.

Unbeknownst to most, there a many different “types” of OCD, so it can be challenging to identify which form(s) of OCD you are grappling with. You may have one or several “types” of OCD or you may have comorbid conditions that involve OCD, such as OCD and PTSD, or OCD and depression. Some of these “types” of OCD may involve counting, organizing, or cleaning, however, the main component of most, if not all OCD “types” is repeating and redoing things. 

Remember, OCD involves repetitive thoughts and/or behaviors, so it makes sense that this condition would involve repeating and redoing things, such as repeatedly cleaning one’s body, home, and car to rid them of germs, harmful bacteria, dirt, viruses, diseases, etc. (contamination OCD) or repeating words, phrases, paragraphs, or texts in your mind to ease stress-related or anxiety-induced OCD symptoms.

If you are curious about the role that repeating and redoing plays in OCD, look no further. This article will not only help you better understand why OCD sufferers feel compelled to repeat and redo things but also how you can stop thoughts and urges to engage in repetitive behaviors.


What Are Some Different “Types” of OCD?

There are a variety of “types” of OCD, such as: 

Note: Although, most if not all “types” of OCD involve repeating or redoing, this compulsion most often presents in the reading OCD. Reading OCD involves re-reading a word, sentence, paragraph, or text if you make a minor or major mistake while reading something, and/or redoing a writing assignment, like a classroom or homework task, if it is not “perfect” or if you misinterpreted the reading and/or writing instructions. 

If you have reading OCD, you may read the same word, sentence, passage, or page, if you feel that you did not read it right or if you miss a word. For instance, a person with reading OCD, who is preparing for a major test or work presentation may go over the material two dozen times out of fear that he or she “missed” something important. If he or she does not “catch” the mistake something terrible may happen, such as failing the test or bombing the presentation.

Is Repeating and Redoing a “Type” of OCD?

No, repeating and redoing is not a type of OCD.

Repeating and redoing is an “element of” or “behavior linked to” OCD. It is not an “official” OCD type. It plays a role in most, if not all OCD types. 

For instance, checking OCD involves repeatedly checking something, contamination OCD involves repeatedly cleaning or sanitizing things, and harm OCD involves repeatedly avoiding people or things for fear that something bad will happen if you engage with them, while symmetry or orderliness OCD involves repeatedly reorganizing things, such as plates, glasses, furniture, etc. until you deem them “perfect” or “redoing” school, homework, and work assignments for fear that something terrible will happen if you “miss something” or make a mistake.

What is Repeating and Redoing in OCD?

A common OCD manifestation involves repeating obsessions and/or redoing things (i.e., rechecking to ensure that the oven is turned off before leaving for work – for fear that the house will burn down while you are away), or continuously redoing the appearance of your kitchen, bedroom, or home. Repeating and redoing in OCD entails doing the same things over and over again.

OCD sufferers are notorious for repeating and redoing things because it provides them with solace. In other words, people with OCD repeat obsessions and perform compulsions to relieve their stress and anxiety. The goal of these behaviors is to stop intrusive thoughts, urges, fears, doubts, emotions, and/or mental images. 

OCD sufferers know their fears, thoughts, urges, doubts, etc., are unlikely to occur, yet they are unable to stop ruminating over them, and can only get temporary relief from them by performing certain actions (i.e., repeating and redoing things). Nothing makes an OCD sufferer feel at ease more than “checking one more time” or redoing something so it is “even better.”

What Are Common Repeating and Redoing Behaviors in OCD?

Listed below are some common OCD-related repeating and redoing behaviors:

  • Re-reading the same words, sentences, paragraphs, and/or pages in a book, magazine, etc., multiple times
  • Redoing writing tasks or projects
  • Redoing things, such as reorganizing your house, bedroom, kitchen, toys, books, plates, wardrobe, etc.
  • Repeating routine activities, such as locking and relocking the door, closing and opening the window, cleaning the kitchen over and over again, etc.
  • Repeating the same words or phrases over and over again

Note: The purpose of repeating and redoing things is usually to reduce or eliminate one’s fears, doubts, urges, and thoughts. For instance, you may repeat certain words or phrases to someone else because you are afraid it did not “come out right” or it did not make sense. In this case, your obsession stems from a fear of being unheard or misunderstood. This fear propels you to engage in certain compulsive behaviors like repeating your words or sentences to make sure you are “clear” and “accurate.”

Keep in mind, however, that OCD obsessions are not always linked to a specific fear or doubt, although, most of the time they are linked to a specific fear. The truth is sometimes an action or behavior just does not feel “right,” causing the person to repeat or redo the action or behavior to ease the stress, anxiety, and tension associated with it. 

For instance, you may repeatedly get up and down from a chair or couch simply because the way you got up or sat down just does not feel “right.” Other repeating examples are going up and down stairs multiple times or going in and out of the front door because it just does not feel “right.” In this scenario, the OCD sufferer will continue to engage in these behaviors until it feels “right.”

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What is Like to Continuously Repeat or Redo Something When You Have OCD?

Listed below is a personal narrative on what it is like to continuously repeat or redo something when you have OCD: 

Mary Beth

“Mary Beth, a teen girl with OCD, is experiencing strong urges to continuously repeat affirmations – loudly amid others. For instance, Mary Beth was at the grocery store with her mother, when she became anxious to go home. Mary Beth does not like large spaces and lots of people. It stresses her. At first, the grocery store was fairly empty, but as the day went on, more and more shoppers showed up, causing Mary Beth’s anxiety to escalate. 

The only way to ease her stress, and anxiety, and stop the intrusive thoughts and urges was to go up to other grocery shoppers, and repeat the phrase, ‘You are a good person’ over and over again. Some of the shoppers asked Mary Beth’s mother if she had Tourette’s syndrome or tics, to which she replied, ‘No, she has OCD.’ 

Mary Beth explained to the shoppers that the phrase will not leave her mind until she loudly repeats the affirmation at least 5 times to each shopper she encounters. Once she has repeated the phrase to a shopper, the stress and anxiety fade away – until she encounters another shopper – then the OCD cycle begins anew. 

Mary Beth explained to the shoppers that her obsessions and compulsions are extremely frustrating, and likely extremely annoying to her friends and family. The affirmations are only one of Mary Beth’s ‘fixations,’ she also has trouble at school. Before a test, she must count to twenty 3x to relax and do well on it. If she does not perform this compulsion, she tends to become overly anxious, leading to a low score. 

Also, if Mary Beth is assigned a writing assignment for homework, she will redo work over and over again until she deems it ‘perfect’ or feels that she has addressed each component of it. For instance, if she does not feel her handwriting is clear or nice enough, she will erase her name over and over again until she thinks it looks presentable. 

Mary Beth’s OCD symptoms are wearing her out. Going to school is mentally exhausting because most of her day is consumed with repeating and redoing things.”

What Are Some Common Causes of Repeating and Redoing in OCD?

The most common causes of repeating and redoing in OCD are stress and trauma.

However, there are also other possible causes of these behaviors, such as: 

  • Stress – The most likely cause of repeating and redoing behaviors in OCD is stress. Stress is a common trigger of OCD – and a common effect of OCD. When an OCD becomes stressed, it sets off a chain reaction (i.e., repetitive and intrusive thoughts, urges, fears, etc.) that can only be assuaged by performing certain actions, such as repeating behaviors or redoing things.
  • Trauma – Another common cause of repeating and redoing in OCD is trauma. Trauma plays a significant role in almost all cases of OCD. When OCD is triggered by trauma, the only way to ease the negative thoughts, feelings, and/or urges associated with it is to repeatedly perform certain actions, which can include reorganizing or redoing something.

    For instance, say you were in a car accident, and right before the accident you heard tires screeching and glass breaking, well, you may try to counter the memory of the accident and the sound of your car smashing into the tree, by repeating certain words, reorganizing your furniture, or deliberately avoiding your trigger – i.e., driving in a car or avoiding backroads.

    Performing these actions or engaging in these behaviors helps you feel more in control of the situation, while also providing some much-needed relief from your thoughts and urges.

  • Low Self-Esteem – Another possible cause of repeating and redoing in OCD is low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can cause you to repeat things (if you are unsure if the other person understood you or if it relieves your stress and anxiety), or redo things (if you do not feel as if you are providing your “best work” or as a stress-reliever when intrusive thoughts, urges, fears, doubts, images, and emotions arise).

    OCD sufferers, who also have low self-esteem, tend to feel inadequate, unworthy, and defective, because of their OCD symptoms, which can cause them to repeat and redo things to feel better about themselves. Performing these repetitive actions provides these individuals with the reassurance they need to function.

  • Genetics – Sometimes, OCD is genetic. In other words, OCD is passed down from a close relative. Because OCD can be hereditary, repeating and redoing behaviors are involuntary, meaning that you are unable to stop doing them because a gene is triggering them. The only way to stop the repeating and redoing behaviors in OCD is to seek OCD treatment for your condition.

What Are the Consequences of Repeating and Redoing OCD Behaviors?

There are several consequences of repeating and redoing OCD behaviors such as:

  • Social Isolation & Loneliness – OCD sufferers, who actively engage in repeating and redoing behaviors are prone to social isolation and loneliness. It is common for people with OCD to experience shame and guilt because of their OCD symptoms, and repeating and redoing behaviors are no exception. Repeating and/or redoing things in the presence of others can cause others to back away from OCD sufferers. 

    These behaviors can become annoying to people, who do not fully understand or live with the condition. This can lead to failed marriages, breakups, lost friendships, and strained family dynamics. It can also lead to low self-esteem and avoidance tendencies. More specifically, people with OCD, who engage in repeating and redoing behaviors, may deliberately avoid social situations and interactions out of fear of being mocked, ignored, criticized, or dismissed. This can lead to social isolation and loneliness.

  • Frustration – It is common for OCD sufferers to experience frustration at being unable to permanently stop the obsessions, and most importantly, the repeating and redoing compulsions. Many OCD sufferers are ashamed of the behaviors – i.e., having to repeat or redo things, which can cause emotional distress and frustration. Moreover, the unrelenting fear that something bad will happen if a certain routine or ritual is not repeatedly performed or something is not redone, can be extremely upsetting and frustrating. Lastly, the inability to control one’s behavior can also be extremely frustrating for someone with OCD.
  • Anger Anger is a common emotion when you have OCD. Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can spark anger. Being unable to shut down upsetting and intrusive thoughts, urges, fears, doubts, mental images, emotions, and behaviors (i.e., repeating and redoing behaviors) would be enough to anger anyone. So, this emotion is actually understandable. Thus, people with this condition tend to repeat and redo things as a way to “quell” their anger. Remember, no one wants to have OCD, so having the condition can be extremely upsetting to the point of anger.
  • Lack of Focus – Constantly repeating and/or redoing things can be distracting. It can be extremely difficult to get things done when you continue going over and “correcting” things. Repeating words or phrases, re-counting, re-checking, re-organizing, or redoing things can prevent you from focusing on the task at hand. Moreover, repeating and/or redoing things can take up a lot of time and energy, leading to a lack of focus.
  • Mental & Physical Exhaustion – It makes sense that constantly repeating and/or redoing things can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. Repeating words over and over again is not only time-consuming, but also nerve-wracking, and physically exhausting. Contrary to popular opinion, these OCD behaviors can lead to a host of mental and physical health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, social anxiety, headache/migraines, insomnia, nightmares, muscle aches and tension, extreme fatigue, high blood pressure, mood swings, irritability, etc. All of the time spent performing repeating and redoing behaviors can zap your emotional and physical energy.

How is OCD Treated?

OCD is treated in a variety of ways. Most of the time, OCD treatment involves a multidisciplinary approach, involving OCD therapies, medications, natural remedies, self-help tools, and/or lifestyle changes. 

The most common OCD therapies are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure-response and prevention (ERP) therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), although other therapies may be incorporated into an OCD treatment plan, such as EMDR and TMS “trauma” therapies, art therapy, music therapy, couples or marriage counseling, family therapy, addiction therapy, individual counseling, group counseling, etc. The go-to OCD therapy is currently ERP therapy. ERP therapy is a subtype of CBT. 

When OCD therapies do not work alone, one or more medications may be added to the treatment plan. The most common medications used to help OCD sufferers overcome repeating and redoing behaviors include SSRIs (i.e., Luvox, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft), tricyclic antidepressants, and/or MAOIs. When standard OCD treatments are ineffective (i.e., CBT, ERP therapy, ACT, and SSRIs), this is referred to as “treatment-resistant OCD.”

Natural remedies, self-help tools, and lifestyle changes that can be safely added to an OCD treatment plan include CBD, a healthy diet filled with vitamins and minerals, healthy coping skills and strategies, OCD books and workbooks, OCD podcasts, support groups, and forums, mindfulness meditation, hypnotherapy/hypnosis, journaling, yoga, stress-management techniques, developing a strong support group consisting of close friends and loved ones, and signing up for an online OCD treatment program, like Impulse Therapy.


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DR. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham has a B.A. in English, an M.M.F.T in Marriage and Family Therapy (Psychology), and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She is currently a medical, health & wellness contributor, copywriter, and psychological consultant

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