OCD Staring Compulsion: Looking at people and things obsessively

Staring OCD can be one of the most embarrassing compulsions out there. I had it bad when I worked in hotels, now I get in on the London Underground. I also do it during my household checks, not as embarrassing but very time consuming.

Compulsive staring is very common, often at objects, people and body parts. It can help validate checking compulsions, or may occur more as a tic. I stare at taps obsessively to make sure they are off, but also stare at people because of tics associated with Tourette’s.

A man stares from a swimming pool

So what is this staring problem disorder… thing?

I have two different experiences with Staring OCD, so I will split this post in two. Hopefully your staring problem will come under one of the following:

  1. Compulsive staring at something you consider inappropriate, embarrassing or without reason
  2. Compulsive staring at something during a ‘checking’ compulsion, such as a bathroom tap to make sure the check is valid and the tap is off

Although I originally added this to my OCD section, I have decided to make it more of a Tourettic OCD post.

Some staring compulsions are purely tics, so I will explain them with some funny and cringe-worthy examples.

A lady stops an onlooker from looking at her

An OCD staring compulsion

For over a decade I worked in hotels, varying from three to five star. I loved and hated it, the crazy and unpredictable environment matched my personality well. It also raised my stress levels which is never good with OCD.

Whilst working on the front desk I found myself fighting the urge to stare at certain moments. Not every time, but often when I knew it was most inappropriate. These would more than likely be at a woman’s cleavage if she was wearing a more revealing top, or at a specific disability that I knew would seem rude if I looked.

As a male in my twenties this could so easily have been deemed just ‘typical male’ behavior, especially if someone is wearing something revealing. But there was no pleasure in an urge to carry out compulsive staring. Only anxiety, a need to quickly hand them their room key and get them out of sight.

People have often described a desire to look at someone’s ‘private parts’, or something they don’t really desire to look at. Often there is no limit as to who- or what- is on the receiving end. It could be someone of either sex, a family member or friend. An animal or an object.

One thing in common is a feeling of helplessness and a desperate need to cure themselves of this compulsion.

A person sits alone overlooking the sea

Is this ‘staring problem disorder’ more of a Tourette ‘tic?

This urge is almost Tourette’s-like, and can seem impossible to distinguish from a tic, if it isn’t one.

I have found myself doing this on the London Underground too. It is almost an unwritten rule to never look at another passenger on the tube, let alone start conversation.

This tic is a nightmare, as the layout of the carriages means I always face someone directly.

The last place I want to look someone in the eyes is in a carriage underground, at night. Especially if it is towards someone that feels threatened, or looks threatening to me. But as TS often works, this makes my desire to look even stronger and harder to resist.

Two commuters waiting for a train at Baker Street station

Staring as a way to validate a ‘checking’ obsession

Another way I find myself staring is when I am doing my checks before bed. If I check the taps, I have to stare until I know it isn’t dripping. If I check the fridge is closed, I stare until I know it won’t pop open. I stare at the alarm symbol in the top right-hand corner of my phone until I am happy it has been set.

Staring is a way to validate my checking. I don’t believe I have done it correctly until I stare long enough to be satisfied. That could be five seconds or five minutes.

I basically do it until it ‘feels right‘, and I can truly trust that I have checked.

This one is easier to view as OCD, a method to confirm a check has been completed.

Staring goes hand in hand with a checking compulsion for me

There aren’t many studies on a specific ‘staring’ compulsion, as so many different urges come from the same neurological processes. On one hand it seems like a tic, and in this ‘checking’ example it seems to help a checking urge.

Conclusion

It may feel like you are the only person to struggle with this weird OCD staring compulsion, but you are one of millions that share this experience every day.

I personally hate this one more than most, due to the time it takes up and how many worries I have tried to resolve by staring myself into reassurance.

It may seem wrong to stare, but remember, OCD is the driving force behind it. Feeling embarrassed, stressed or immoral is a normal reaction to this, and it seems very hard or even impossible to prevent the urge from arising. All we can do is find the techniques to resist the urge and learn how to live a more stress-free life.

How does this compulsion affect you, and do you have tips on how to combat it?

Speaking to someone you trust may feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders, keeping it secret will only bottle up your emotions. You never know, that person may have this same secret too! Talking openly with a loved one or a specialist may be the road to recovery and a more enjoyable life.

It has been for me, although it is an ongoing battle within.

A lady stares directly ahead

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10 thoughts on “OCD Staring Compulsion: Looking at people and things obsessively”

  1. Deafess and sudden hearing loss rewired my brain to exactly the type of staring OCD you described and is for me very destressing sexual staring OCD women’s breasts mens genitals door checking tap checking not so bad I can live with that and can control that part of my OCD but the sexual staring episodes . I am at my wit’s end and can barely function at work because of it .

    Reply
    • Thank you Nathan for your comments on this, I am sorry you are having similar compulsions. Have you been receiving treatment or therapy for this as of yet? I am currently going to CBT therapy and I am planning to bring this specific compulsion up in the upcoming sessions.

      Reply
    • Hey, It is due to just low esteem,increase your self- esteem,you can research about the same. believe me its work.

      Reply
  2. No treatment ongoing but have an appointment with NHS phone talk session which is a start in Feb 2022 but NHS is overwhelmed at the moment so no face to face therapy yet private costs to much and I don’t have the money

    Reply
    • I feel you. It can take a while to get therapy happening, however it is great to know you have it coming in February. I had to wait a little while for mine, but I do hope that you knowing therapy is coming is helping to reduce some anxiety. It will be good for you to speak to a specialist about your specific compulsions and be able to manage them with the techniques they provide. Just stay strong until then and know better days are coming. They may even be able to get you in quicker! Who knows 🙂

      Reply
  3. Do you have a way to distract your thoughts about your problem and go out to run or do something active that might take the stress away? You might also find a way to look up about OCD using nutrition to slow it down & bring your health back some other way. If you do, please remember to think about what the amount is & there will be a time condition that if healing works, will not go away overnight. Keep inspiring!

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting, improving my diet has certainly helped my anxiety go down, and with that a lot of my compulsions. Keeping busy, usually with a long walk, video editing or blogging also is a nice distraction too. The desire to stare (as a tic) is usually a sudden urge, and in that moment I do it or don’t do it. If it is because I am doing checking compulsions, I usually can’t do anything else until I have done the check.

      It is hard to know whether it is Tourette’s or OCD, or both, but in those brief moments I do try to think of other things to distract myself. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t! Thank you so much for your thoughts and words of support 🙂

      Reply

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