Intended for healthcare professionals


Friday the 13th and obsessive compulsive disorder

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 14 October 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:963
  1. David Veale
  1. Consultant psychiatrist Grovelands Priory Hospital, London N14 6RA

    Better understanding has brought some success in treatment

    Most readers of this journal are probably not superstitious. They are unlikely to change their behaviour this Friday the 13th despite a study showing significantly more road traffic accidents on Friday the 13th than Friday the 6th.1 They might, however, “touch wood” or choose a lucky number in the national lottery. People who are superstitious take it further. They see a causal relation between their own thoughts or actions and events in the world. Superstitions flourish whenever people cannot tolerate uncertainty or believe that they have no control over events; they lead us to believe that we can influence outcomes. Superstitiousness correlates significantly with the obsessional thoughts and compulsive checking experienced by people with obsessive compulsive disorder.2

    Obsessive compulsive disorder consists of obsessions or compulsions or, most commonly, the two combined. Obsessions are recurrent intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that cause considerable anxiety or disgust. Typical obsessions concern contamination, misfortune, violence, blasphemy, and sex. Compulsions are thoughts or …

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