John (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

Case Study Details

John is a 56-year-old man who presents to you for treatment. His symptoms started slowly; he tells you that he was always described as an anxious person and remembers being worried about a lot of things throughout his life. For instance, he reported he was very afraid he’d contract HIV by touching doorknobs, even though he tells you he knew this was “irrational.” He tells you that about 10 years ago, following a few life stressors, his anxiety and intrusive thoughts worsened significantly. He tells you he began washing his hands excessively. He reports he developed an intense fear that someone would break into the house and it would be his fault because he left something unlocked. He states that this fear led him to repeatedly check doors and windows before sleep in a specific order, which was a source of contention with his wife. He says that his fear of making a mistake also leads him to be slow to turn in work for his job, checking many times to make sure there are no mistakes, for which he gets reprimanded on occasion.

John reports that his symptoms are getting worse, which is why he has sought treatment. For example, currently he washes his hands until he finishes the whole soap bar, and his hands are cracked because they are so dry. He says he continues to check the doors and windows of his house numerous times throughout the day, not just at night, and has on occasion driven home from work to be sure everything truly was locked. If he notices even a speck of dust on the floor, he states he has the urge to clean the whole house and he often complies with that urge.

John expresses significant distress over these symptoms, as they are taking up more of his time and robbing him of his confidence, as he is increasingly distracted at work and in his family life.


  • Anxiety
  • Compulsions
  • Concentration Difficulties
  • Intrusive Thoughts
  • Obsessions
  • Ruminations
  • Worry

Diagnoses and Related Treatments

1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The following treatments have empirical support for individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: