In medicine and psychology, an obsession is a symptom resulting in an idea or a feeling.

It imposes itself on the consciousness of the subject who feels it as restrictive and absurd.

But fails to chase him away despite his efforts for this.


Obsession is frequently associated with compulsions.

We then speak of obsession-compulsion, a phenomenon that we meet most often during obsessive neurosis.

Or obsessive compulsive disorder, and more rarely in other situations.


For psychiatric semiology, obsessions constitute a disturbance in the content of thought1. They have two characteristics:

  • The subject perceives very well the absurdity of the thoughts which invade him, bursting into his psyche. For example, a person who is overwhelmed by the obsessive question of whether they have turned off the gas, knows they have done so. But the question continues to assail him triggering a lively anxiety.
  • The subject tries to hunt, to repress these ideas which he knows are absurd, but it is a failure, and then engages in a fight against them which has the effect of dramatically increasing anxiety.


For some, the solution to this anxious struggle can only be found in a compulsive act, a compulsion being a useless or absurd act.

Very ritualized, that the subject can not help but accomplish, even if he perceives its absurdity well (it can be to check something that the person has already checked several times, to wash his hands, etc. ).

Difference between obsession and phobia

  • During the phobia, the fear is directed towards an external object or a situation. The anxiety stops when the exposure to this situation disappears. Phobics therefore largely use strategies to avoid distressing objects or situations.
  • During obsessions, anxiety is permanent since it is linked to the permanent irruption of obsessive ideas in the psyche.

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