In both children and adults obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterised by the presence of recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are time consuming (over an hour a day) or cause mental distress or impairment. Common obsessions include fear of contamination, fear of harm to oneself or other people and urges related to asymmetry or exactness, and compulsions can include excessive washing and cleaning, checking, counting, repeating, touching, or straightening. Over the last 30 years a number of studies have shown that between 80-90% of the non-clinical population experience intrusive thoughts, images or impulses that are similar in content to clinical obsessions - the only difference being the levels of distress caused to people with OCD. Researchers from the University of Manchester studied 62 adolescents - aged between 12 and 14 - to see if the same was true of them. They found that 77% of the participants in the study reported obsessions and that the levels of distress experienced by the children were related to the significance they attached to their intrusive thoughts.
Crye, Jenny, Laskey, Ben and Cartwright-Hatton, Sam - Non-clinical obsessions in a young adolescent population: frequency and association with metacognitive variables Psychology and psychotherapy: theory, research and practice March 2010, 83(1), 15-26