An obsession is an unwelcome, uncontrollable, and persistent idea, thought, image, or emotion that a person cannot help thinking even though it creates significant distress or anxiety.
Obsessive ideas seem unnatural or alien to those who have them, but are nevertheless recognized as originating from the person's own thoughts—they are not seen as delusions sent or controlled by an outside party.
Typical obsessions include fear of contamination as from doorknobs or handshakes, worry about leaving things in their proper order, persistent doubts about one's responsible behavior, scary images involving violent acts, and images of sexual acts. People with obsessions may find themselves acting in compulsive ways in largely futile attempts to relieve the anxiety associated with their persistent, unpleasant thoughts. Others suffering from obsessions may try very hard to control or ignore them. It is important to note that legitimate worries about daily concerns—paying bills, studying for exams, keeping a job, interpersonal relationships—are not obsessions. Although they can occasionally be carried to obsessive lengths, these concerns can change with circumstances and, in most cases be controlled, with planning, effort, and action. Obsessions relate to problems that most people would consider far removed from normal, daily events and concerns.
Dean A. Haycock, Ph.D.