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Symmetry OCD

The Various Manifestations of Symmetry OCD

People struggling with symmetry OCD often feel anxious or physically uncomfortable if things are not balanced or lined up in a particular way. The discomfort is so great that people often feel unable to move on or concentrate on anything else until they “fix” the imbalance or misalignment. People with this type of OCD may believe that there is a “right” or “exact” way that things should be. 

While some people feel distressed when things are imbalanced or misaligned, others believe something terrible will happen if things are not “exactly as they should be.” 


Scenario: Valentina has intrusive thoughts about her family getting into a car accident if her shoes are not lined up in a specific way. As a result, she spends a lot of time rearranging her shoes and checking to make sure that they haven’t been moved. If Valentina does not do these compulsions, she feels she is putting her family in danger. 

Symmetry OCD can also involve a distressing sensation that one’s body or actions are uneven. People with this type of symmetry OCD often feel compelled to perform actions on both sides of their body to relieve the uncomfortable feeling of imbalance.


People may also worry that if they do not perform actions evenly with both body parts (e.g., picking up the phone with the right hand and then the left hand), their body parts will become bigger on one side than the other.


Scenario: if Blake picks up his phone with his left hand, he puts it down and picks it back up with his right hand so that his body feels “even.” If he does not do this compulsion, Blake worries the discomfort will last forever, and make him “go crazy.”

Symmetry OCD Compulsions

Compulsions are anything that people with OCD do to relieve the anxiety and distress brought on by their intrusive thoughts (i.e., obsessions, worries). The variations of compulsions are endless and vary from person to person, which makes it impossible to include examples of all possible compulsions in this guide. Below is a selection of symmetry OCD compulsion examples to help provide sight into the different ways compulsions can present themselves.

Examples of Symmetry OCD Compulsions:

Rearranging and ordering objects in a specific way and/or asking others to arrange and order objects.


Rewriting until one’s handwriting is evenly spaced.


Repeating actions on both sides of the body.


Needing to do things in even numbers.

(e.g., setting the TV volume at an even number; running 1.2 miles instead of 1.1 miles; waiting until the time is on an even number like 7:30 to shower)


Avoiding looking at objects that are not arranged in a specific way.


Avoiding actions that may trigger a feeling of unevenness.

(e.g., avoiding hanging up curtains as they may not be perfectly symmetrical)

Help for Symmetry OCD

Living with OCD can be confusing, scary, and overwhelming, but please know that there is hope. OCD is treatable, and the gold-standard treatment is a behavioral intervention called exposure therapy. In addition to exposures, there are other acceptance-based interventions that are highly effective for treating OCD. 

We hope that this guide has helped you to better understand Symmetry OCD.

You do not need to live a life overwhelmed and controlled by OCD. Equipping yourself with practical information for treating OCD and learning how to respond to OCD in an effective way can be life changing. Oftentimes, people unknowingly engage in actions that feed the OCD cycle

If you would like to learn more in-depth information about OCD treatment and recovery, you are welcome to read our Educational Guides on exposure therapy and other acceptance-based interventions for OCD:

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