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Information for Individuals

Extreme Need for Symmetry or Exactness

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Obsessions and compulsions associated with symmetry or exactness are somewhat stereotyped, as seen on some television programs where the featured character is depicted as constantly rearranging misaligned items in a comical manner.  Some obsessions that may be seen in a person with this type of OCD include these similarities:

  • Extreme anxiety when faced with uneven numbers of items, indoors or outdoors, such as pillows on a couch, potted plants or framed pictures on a wall or bookcase
  • An intense reaction to anything believed not to be symmetrical—a hem on drapery that isn’t completely even, a framed picture hanging at a slight angle, or any number of things that “don’t line up evenly”
  • An overwhelming need to arrange objects symmetrically

Compulsions such as repetitive arranging, organizing or evening up objects are often seen with this type of OCD.  Some examples, when excessively performed, include:

  • Arranging items so that there are only certain numbers of items showing; throwing away items if there are “too many,” or acquiring more to get to the “right” number
  • Lining up, evening up or arranging items so that they are perfectly spaced or even
  • Arranging clothing in certain ways,  such as symmetrical shoe arrangement in a closet, or repeated rearrangement of clothing or objects to make sure the arrangement is “right”
  • Mental “evening up” such as counting, tapping or touching—including evening up the number of times an action takes place

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