How Does Superstitious Behavior Relate to OCD

Superstitions are common in various cultures, often linked to magic and astrology. When taken to an extreme, they are an alternative to science or religion, attempting to provide an 'explanation' to establish chains of cause and effect and predict future events. Simple superstition is very common feature of normal childhood thinking, when we believe that we can make things happen by making a wish, or prevent bad things from happening by a simple action. However, when superstitions persists in adults it is generally driven by fear and insecurity; it reduces the feeling of uncertainity in the world and makes us feel more in control of our destiny.

Superstitious rituals in OCD are similar to 'normal' superstitions but tend to be more complex and lengthier; like other compulsions, they become disabling, and can be finished only when the persons feels comfortable. A person with OCD will want to repeat the ritual if it is not done in a precise way or at the 'right' time, or if they are not feeling completely comfortable or right. Superstitious rituals are believed to have the function of eliminating or neutralizing bad events that have come to mind. Examples include counting up to a magic number or multiples there of, repeating specific words or images, stepping in special ways when walking, washing off bad ideas or memories, and touching certain things in a special way or a particular number of times. Superstitions can also leads to avoidance of certain numbers, colours, ideas or words (e.g. the devil) which are associated with bad events.