SOUTH KOREA - Repeated hand-washing became a "ritual" for 28-year-old graduate student Kim Ju-eun. Fearing germs, she could not stop herself from washing her hands frantically and frequently.
Which made sense when Kim was later diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD.
The anxiety disorder is characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviours that people feel compelled to perform.
The number of patients suffering from the disorder has gone up in recent years, especially among young adults, a report showed.
According to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, the number of OCD patients in South Korea surged to 24,000 in 2013, up 13 per cent from 2009.
By age, those in their 20s and 30s accounted for nearly half of the total, at 24 per cent and 21.2 per cent, respectively.
Of the total patients, men made up about 60 per cent.
"These days, people have more things to check constantly such as emails and smartphones in a fast paced life. I believe compelled habits of checking things causes more occurrences of the disorder," said Jeon Hong-jin, a psychiatrist at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul.
Symptoms vary from checking and touching things repeatedly to counting. Some obsessed with germs, may constantly wash their hands, while others may repeatedly lock their doors before bed for fear of intruders.
In some extreme cases, patients are even preoccupied with thoughts of violence and hurting acquaintances.
Having obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours does not necessarily signal OCD. Symptoms must cause tremendous distress and interfere with daily life.