Magical thinking is an illogical thought pattern characterized by the linking of unrelated actions or events. Individuals may become preoccupied with lucky or unlucky numbers, colors, words, actions, sayings or superstitions and link them to catastrophe or ‘bad things’ that might happen. The individual with ‘magical thinking’ OCD truly believes and lives by these rules and feared consequences, and may believe that the mere act of thinking certain things may result in the occurrence of a feared event.

Magical Behaviors

“Very Superstitious” by Fred Penzel, Ph.D.

  • Reciting or thinking of certain words, names, sounds, images, phrases, or numbers
  • Moving one’s body or gesturing in a special way
  • Stepping in special ways or on special spots when walking
  • Arranging objects or possessions in a special order
  • Performing physical actions in reverse
  • Thinking thoughts in reverse
  • Performing behaviors at special times or on particular dates
  • Repeating one’s own words, or the words of others
  • Touching certain things in a special way or a particular number of times
  • Replacing bad/ negative thoughts or phrases with a positive thought or phrase in order to neutralize the bad/ negative thought


DISCLAIMER: The content found here is intended to serve as educational content and is not intended to replace therapy. For treatment-related questions, please be sure to work with your local provider or contact a local clinician.

Videos: Magical Thinking

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Eric A. Storch, PhD, discusses a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) known as magical thinking. Magical thinking is a particular thought process in which OCD sufferers believe their actions could affect certain outcomes.

Eric A. Storch, PhD, discusses the differences between obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) superstition and being superstitious. One of the biggest differences is when the superstitious​ behaviors get in the way of the a person's life.