Difference Between Obsession and Compulsion

Despite the fact that both obsession and compulsion are related to a mental disorder, there is a difference between obsession and compulsion. In other words, these are not alike. While obsession refers to a persistent thought that works in the mind of an individual, compulsion refers to a persistent action, where the individual feels a strong urge to engage in a particular activity to the level where it disrupts his daily chores. So, the main difference between obsession and compulsion stem from one being related to thoughts and the other to actions. This article attempts to present a more elaborative image of the two terms so that the reader can comprehend the differences that exist.

What does Obsession mean?

First, when looking at the word obsession, it can be defined as a recurrent thought which does not go away; a persistent thought. Even amidst other work, this thought would preoccupy the mind of the individual. This is usually viewed as irrational and can vary in degree. Some obsessions are milder in degree in comparison to others. When the degree is high, the disruption to day to day life and chores is also high. Even when the person does not want to think of it, this thought would come again and again. Fear of germs, dirt, and the constant need for things to be completed in a proper way are some examples for obsession. Obsessions can even lead to strains in personal and work relationships as they disrupt the usual functioning of an individual.

What does Compulsion mean?

Unlike an obsession, which is a recurrent thought, a compulsion is a persistent action that needs to be fulfilled. A compulsion can also be of different degrees. When the degree is mild, the person manages to carry on with his daily routines with little disruption. However, when the degree is high the impact on the daily routine is not only negative , but high. Let us try to understand this through an example. Imagine an individual who needs to check whether he/she closed the door before coming to work. If the person is suffering from a compulsion for this activity, the person will have a strong urge to go back and check the door again. This is also linked with obsession as the person keeps on thinking about the desire to close the door, or else to check whether he closed the door properly.

This example also highlights the impact it has on the daily routine. In this instance, the person would never manage to get to work on time. If the person tries to push away this strong urge, it usually leads to having adverse effects. Also, this results in the person encountering difficulties in work life as well as personal life. Some more examples for compulsions are the need to wash hands, need for constant approval, need to arrange things in a particular manner, etc.

What is the difference between Obsession and Compulsion?

• Obsession refers to a persistent thought that works in the mind of an individual.

• Compulsion refers to a persistent action, where the individual feels a strong urge to engage in a particular activity.

• Both obsession and compulsion vary in degree, the higher the degree, the higher the chance of disruptions in daily life.

• Both can be cured through Cognitive behavioural therapy and medication.

• The main difference is that while obsession is confined to a thought, compulsion goes as far as an action.