Extreme Need for Symmetry or Exactness

Obsessions and compulsions associated with symmetry or exactness may be somewhat stereotyped, as seen on some television programs where the featured character is depicted as constantly rearranging misaligned items in a comical manner.  Although the obsessions a real person with this type of OCD has may be similar to those portrayed in the media, it’s essential to keep in mind that in reality, obsessions and compulsions are anything but amusing.  Individuals with concerns related to symmetry or exactness may experience:

  • Extreme anxiety that something bad may happen if the number of items inside or outside one’s home or place of work is uneven, for example, pillows on a couch, pencils on a desk, items on a wall or bookcase
  • An intense reaction to anything believed to be asymmetrical – words on a page, shoelaces on shoes, or any number of things that “don’t line up evenly”
  • An overwhelming need or urge for things to be balanced; for example, needing to hold a cup of coffee with both hands exerting the same amount of pressure on each side of the cup, or walking through a doorway with both shoulders perfectly balanced or even

Compulsions such as excessive arranging, organizing or evening up objects often occur with this type of OCD.  Some examples include:

  • Arranging items so there are only certain items showing; throwing away items if there are “too many,” or acquiring more to get it “just right”
  • Lining up, evening up or arranging items so that they are perfectly spaced or even
  • Arranging items in a certain order, such as symmetrically arranging shoes in a closet, or repeatedly rearranging clothing by color or alphabetical order
  • “Evening up” behavior such as evening up the number of times an action takes place (counting, tapping or touching, for example)
  • Avoiding a particular area or room with floors or walls containing symmetrical geometric shapes such as bathroom tiles; seeing the tiles would necessitate tracing each of the edges with one’s eyes


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