OCD Info for Law Enforcement

Your partner is driving you crazy. Every time you leave the car he remotely locks and unlocks the doors repeatedly. In the car, everything has its place. Deviation of more than ¼” results in a readjustment. He dusts his perfectly polished shoes after...

  • environmental contaminants
  • bodily waste or secretions
  • illness/disease
  • animals/insects
  • pregnancy
  • fear of blood
  • fear of eating certain foods
  • bothered by sticky substances or residues

Symmetry, Order, Exactness and "Just Right" Obsessions:

  • dressing
  • grooming
  • item placement
  • eating
  • fear of saying the wrong thing or not saying it "just right"
  • need to know or remember

Safety, Harm and Violent Obsessions

  • fear of harm to self or others due to carelessness or on impulse
  • fear of being responsible for terrible events
  • fear of blurting out obscenities or insults
  • fear of doing something else embarrassing
  • fear of violent or horrific images

Hoarding/Saving Obsessions

  • need to hoard or save things
  • fear of losing objects, information, people, something symbolic

Other common obsessions include

  • pathological doubting or indecisiveness
  • excessive concern with functioning of, or injury, to a body part
  • colors/numbers with special significance
  • superstitious fears
  • lucky or unlucky numbers, colors, or clothing
  • intrusive/meaningless thoughts/images or nonsense sounds, words or music.

Common Compulsions

Compulsive thoughts or behaviors are carried out to reduce the anxiety of the person's obsessions.  Common compulsions include:

  • excessive grooming/cleaning
  • saving, collecting or hoarding
  • touching, tapping or rubbing certain objects repeatedly
  • repetition of special words or images mentally
  • special prayers
  • mental counting
  • excessive list making
  • excessive reviewing
  • blinking or staring rituals
  • excessive checking of drawers, door locks and appliances to be sure they are shut, locked or turned off
  • repetition of normal activities, such as going in and out of a door, sitting down and getting up from a chair
  • ordering and arranging items in certain ways
  • seeking constant reassurance and approval
  • needing to confess
  • excessive rereading or rewriting
  • superstitious behaviors
  • ritualized eating behaviors
  • excessive checking oneself for signs of a catastrophic disease


Some people with the disorder still maintain successful careers and relationships as many find ways to hide or suppress their obsessive-compulsive behavior related to feelings of shame/embarrassment. The list of celebrities with this disorder is impressive: Ludwig von Beethoven, Jose Conseco, Winston Churchill, Francis Ford Coppola, Carrie Fisher, Margot Kidder, J.P. Morgan, Axl Rose, Cole Porter, Roseanne Barr, Michelangelo, Stanley Kubrick, Harrison Ford, Billy Bob Thornton, Warren Zevon, Kathie Lee Gifford, Howard Stern, Cameron Diaz, Albert Einstein, Charlie Sheen and Michael Jackson. Donald Trump is terrified of germs. He refuses to touch the ground floor button of a lift and avoids shaking hands with people--especially teachers. He is quoted as saying, "I'm going to do everything in my power not to shake hands with teachers. They have 17,000 germs per square inch on their desk. That's ten times the germ rate of those in other professions”. David Beckham is obsessed with symmetry, if there's three of something; he has to hide the third somewhere out of sight.


Treatment for OCD involves a combination of psychopharmacology and behavioral therapy. A type of behavioral therapy known as "exposure and response prevention" has been proven very effective in treating OCD. In this approach, a person is deliberately and voluntarily exposed to whatever triggers the obsessive thoughts and then is taught techniques to avoid performing the compulsive rituals and to deal with the anxiety. Medication treatments include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Paxil and Luvox, as well as tricyclic antidepressants.  Deep brain stimulation (through electrodes in a pacemaker like set-up) is used in severe cases who have not responded to traditional treatments.

Tips for Law Enforcement Officers on Scene

Crisis situations are obviously much more overwhelming for anyone who suffers with OCD. 

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