Is Outline Tracing Disorder A Sign of OCD?

In this blog, we will cover all about outline tracing disorder, and explain what is OCD, signs of OCD, symptoms of OCD, treatment of OCD, and also answer frequently asked questions.

Is Outline Tracing Disorder A Sign of OCD?

Yes, outline tracing can be a sign of OCD and cause a person a significant amount of distress and daily life issues.

Half of your well-being is defined by mental happiness and fulfillment. Physical and mental health are intertwined in the pursuit of the ideal quality of life.

Aside from significant physical issues, you may also suffer from a mental condition known as ‘Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)’. Despite the fact that it bears the word disorder in its name. It does not have the same impact on you as other psychological issues.

Outline tracing disorder falls under OCD and we will discuss it in detail. 

What is Outline Tracing disorder? 

Outline tracing disorder is a strange condition in which you use your eyes to continuously outline numerous living or non-living objects in front of you.

For example, you will be relaxing on your couch and suddenly you’ll realize that your mind has unconsciously started making boundaries around things in front of you. This can include making lines around the window, door, or even the entire ceiling. 

You see a window and then start tracing every line at a 90-degree angle. You’ll then start cutting rectangles and other shapes to nearer squares. And then start counting the number of small squares formed. 

In certain circumstances, the shapes you trace are so large that you have to move your head rather than your eyes. That is all there is to it. 

As a result, the term “disorder” may be inappropriate in this circumstance, as it can be completely harmless but if you are indulging in outline tracing during the entire day and your other aspects of life are getting affected, that might be a sign that you are suffering from OCD. 

What is OCD? 

OCD refers to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by a pattern of unwanted thoughts and anxieties (obsessions) that cause you to engage in repetitive actions (compulsions). Obsessions and compulsions create severe distress and interfere with daily tasks.

You can try to ignore or stop your obsessions, but this will only make you feel worse. Finally, you feel compelled to engage in obsessive behaviors in order to relieve your tension. Despite attempts to ignore or eliminate troublesome thoughts or urges, they persist. This feeds into the OCD’s vicious circle of ritualistic activity.

OCD is frequently centered on certain themes, such as an overwhelming fear of being contaminated by germs. You can wash your hands till they’re sore and chapped to alleviate your contamination anxieties.

Facts about outline tracing disorder 

  • Many people think outline tracing disorder to be very rare, however, you can find people around you going through this. 
  • This is a chronic condition that affects many people from childhood to old age, with some guardians noting it in very young children.
  • Many people tend to hide this disorder from their friends and family.
  • Many people claim that they perform this behaviour in their subconscious minds and that they are unable to control it naturally. This leads to a feeling of frustration and disappointment. 
  • Despite the fact that it is extremely unpleasant, no one has claimed that this condition has significantly hindered their life. Even some of the world’s most successful people have gradually adapted to it.
  • You can trace an object in many ways. Many people trace by using their teeth, tongue, or toes. Some also use their head or at times incline their entire body in the direction of the object. 
  • Other mental disorders, including other OCDs (especially tallying), anxiousness, and depression, appear to have a strong link. Many people also disclosed that they were suffering from recurrent encephalon pains.
  • Outlining is usually done while they are in a relaxed state, such as while watching television.
  • Some people have also observed that their compulsive need to trace an outline around every object increases with age
  • They are unsure why they do it and are frustrated by their complete inability to quit.

A few people (most likely the extreme cases) claim that it interferes with their ability to concentrate. Others see it as harmless – even as a form of recreation fun habit but if it is affecting your work, studies, relationships, you must receive professional help and guidance. 

Causes of outline tracing disorder

Despite the fact that specialists have no idea what causes OCD, various hypotheses exist. Because outline tracing disorder is on the list of OCD, the causes may be the same. 

Factors such as hereditary, neurological, psychological, environmental, and behavioural factors could all have a role.


These mental illnesses appear to be passed down from generation to generation. This suggests a possible hereditary link, which experts are investigating.

According to ‘imaging studies,’ the encephalon of people with these medical disorders works differently than that of healthy people. Genes that influence the brain’s reaction to serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters, may have a role in the development of this condition.

Weak immune system 

Manifestations of such mental illnesses might appear in children as a result of contamination, for example.

Strep throat, Lyme disease, and the H1N1 virus are all streptococcal infections.

This occurrence of OCD features is sometimes referred to as ‘Pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS)’ by doctors.

The symptoms of PANS in a baby start abruptly and peak in intensity within 24–72 hours. They may then vanish, only to reappear later.

Behavioural factors 

One theory proposes that a person suffering from a mental illness learns how to avoid dread. Particularly when it comes to specific situations or items, by performing specified actions to reduce the apparent danger.

The principal fear may emerge during a period of great stress, such as a terrible accident or a significant loss.

When a person associates a scenario or thing with a feeling of dread, they begin to keep a strategic distance from that item or circumstance in some way that reflects their state.

This may be more common in people who have a genetic susceptibility to the condition.

Environmental factors 

Distressing life events may exacerbate these disorders in people who have familial, genetic, or other vulnerabilities.

Several people have stated that the manifestations occurred within 6 months of certain events. Consider the following scenario:

  • A conflict in the personal or professional domain
  • Brain injury caused by a traumatic event (traumatic brain injury)
  • Complications associated with pregnancy or delivery
  • childbirth

Furthermore, OCD may occur in combination with ‘post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)’.

Psychological causes 

Another theory is that outline tracing disorder or other forms of similar activity start when people misunderstand their own thoughts.

Most of us experience some irritating thoughts throughout the day. However, for some people, the intensity of these thoughts is very high. 

For example, suppose you are a father of a newborn child. You love your child very much and care for her. You are facing severe stress and tension in your workplace. As a result of the excessive stress, you keep getting thoughts about hurting your infant. 

For the most part, these considerations can be dismissed. However, if the thoughts do not go away, they may become destructive.

A person with OCD may become convinced that the thinking activity will almost certainly occur. As a result, people engage in irrational, consistent behaviour in order to avoid the risk or threat.

Treatment of outline tracing disorder 

It is likely that your doctor will provide the same treatment for OCD and outline tracing disorder as both of them are closely related. 

A combination of medicines and therapy can improve the condition. 


You can try to boost up your brain function and keep yourself busy with certain other things. Brain function boosting supplements like Synapse XT can help you in this case.

Certain medications can help with OCD. Antidepressants classified as ‘Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)’ fall under this category. Here are a few examples:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetin (Paxil)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluvoxamine (Prozac)

Half of all people with OCD will get better if they just take an SSRI. That’s why doctors pair it with antipsychotic medications.


If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

Behavioral therapy

Behavior therapy is a treatment technique based on learning theory that aims to solve issues and alleviate symptoms by altering behavior and the contextual factors that influence it. This can aid in the improvement of a person’s feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) and cognitive therapy are two types of treatments available.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

This is an example of a type of brain stimulation therapy. It is recommended for patients who do not react to conventional treatments. Magnetic fields are used to excite nerve cells in the brain in this noninvasive therapy. When traditional therapies like medicines and talk therapy (psychotherapy) fail, repetitive TMS is utilised.

The positive side of outline tracing disorder

Whenever we talk about mental health conditions, it is a common habit to look at the deficits in people. However, like there are two sides to every coin, people with outline tracing disorder also have some positive qualities. 

For starters, they have a high level of spatial intelligence and spatial ability. They have the power of “drawing in mind” as they can pretty much outline everything around them. They will never forget a face they’ve seen. 

They are also very good at first-person-shooter games, solving Rubik’s cubes, and subjects like chemistry, engineering, maths and physics.


There is still a lot of misconception regarding OCD and other mental health disorders. This article provides you with a better insight into the issues. If you are someone who resonates with the symptoms of outline tracing disorder, then you should pay a visit to a mental health professional. Always remember that you are not alone, you just need to seek proper help.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Is Outline Tracing Disorder A Sign of OCD?

What is a Finger Tracing Disorder?

This is a type of OCD in which you trace your finger in the air and write the spelling of any word. Even though it is done in the subconscious mind, it is an unbreakable habit.

Why do I use my eyes to trace things?

If you find yourself tracing items with your eyes, outline tracing disorder may be the cause. 

What are some of the symptoms of OCD?

The following are examples of compulsive behaviours seen in people with OCD:

Checking in on loved ones on a regular basis to ensure their safety. To relieve anxiousness, count, tap, repeat particular words, or perform other meaningless actions. Washing or cleaning for an extended period of time. Getting things “exactly right” by ordering or organising them.

What are the four different forms of OCD?

There are various forms of OCD, but the following four stand out as the most frequent.

  • Cleaning/contamination OCD.
  • Order/symmetry or counting compulsions OCD
  • Harm OCD
  • Hoarding OCD

Does OCD damage the brain?

Unfortunately, OCD reduces the quantity of grey matter in the brain, making persons with the illness less able to regulate their impulses. Low levels of grey matter can also alter your information processing, making you more inclined to fixate over “bad thoughts” whether you plan to or not.

Can a person with OCD live a normal life?

You can surely live a normal and productive life if you have OCD. Managing your OCD, like any chronic condition, necessitates a focus on day-to-day coping rather than a long-term cure.


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