2.2 million adults in the US suffer from OCD.

If you’re one of these 2.2 million adults, then you know how difficult it can be to live with this illness. If you have a loved one with this disease, then you also know the toll it can take on a person’s life.

While we know a lot more today about OCD than we did 50 years ago, there’s still a long way to go. And, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding out there. For example, many people don’t know that there are different types of OCD out there.

Check out this guide to get an understanding of the different types of OCD.

What is OCD? 

First things first, what exactly is OCD?

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is the presence of compulsions, obsessions, or both. These compulsions and obsessions are time-consuming, and, the symptoms of the disorder are not attributable to another medical condition or the effects of another substance.

While OCD sufferers are typically portrayed in the media as “neat freaks”, there’s a lot more to it than that, and this portrayal isn’t exactly fair.

To put it into simpler terms OCD is a kind of anxiety disorder. Those who suffer from OCD have overwhelming urges and thoughts that can be incredibly difficult to cope with and are usually involuntary.

However, unlike other types of anxiety disorders, OCD usually manifests as developing “rituals” that are aimed to cope with the anxieties created by the obsession.

A ritual may include avoiding stepping on cracks on the sidewalk, turning the light on and off a certain number of times, or counting to a certain number.

However, performing these actions often results in very little relief, which is why this illness can be so hard to cope with.

 

Video Transcript
Double-checking things is a pretty common human behavior, like, Did I shut the garage door? I better double-check. How about locking the front door? Double-check. Gas-stove and oven off? Double-check. We all do it.
But what if you feel compelled to triple-check it, or even quadruple check it, or quintuple check it even. Then it might be considered an obsession.
Now, what if you have to do a certain ritual with the gas-stove and oven before leaving the home each time, like: make sure the gas-stove is off, wipe down the gas stove to clean it, double-check that the burners are off, make sure the oven is off, wipe down the oven to clean it, and then open the oven door to make sure no heat is coming out, and then leave the house.
Then that might be a compulsion.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a specific type of anxiety disorder characterized by these obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and intrusive thoughts that are typically unwanted and tough to get out of your brain. These unwanted thoughts like “my house is unsafe”, cause anxiety, and usually, they lead to compulsions, which are actions that might be performed to try and reduce the anxiety associated with obsessions.
As you might imagine, these thoughts and rituals can have a serious impact on someone’s daily life. OCD affects around 3% of the population and affects both men and women equally and usually starts in childhood or in the teen years.
Celebrities like David Beckham and Howie Mandel are known to be affected by OCD, and a more severe example is that of Howard Hughes, business tycoon, and entrepreneur, among other things, who was been affected by relatively incapacitating OCD later in his life.
Although obsessive-compulsive includes both obsessions and compulsions, one doesn’t need both obsessions and compulsions for diagnosis, some individuals might have just obsessions or just compulsions, but the majority of patients have both, often where the compulsion is performed to alleviate an obsession.
A very common compulsion is cleaning, which often stems from an obsession with germs or contamination.
Another common compulsion is checking, usually, because they have obsessions that something’s unsafe, so they’ll check to make sure that something’s definitely locked by unlocking and re-locking, sometimes several times.
More generally, repeating is a compulsion on its own, where an action or phrase is repeated several times, and usually, this is done because if it’s not, they think something bad will happen.
Sometimes patients might feel compelled to order and arrange things because when they’re out of order, it causes anxiety and discomfort.
Finally, mental rituals are also obsessions, these are often done to try and neutralize intrusive or—what they think are—bad thoughts. So they might try and call up specific words or phrases they think are good thoughts to try and replace the bad thoughts.
Now the diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders, the fifth edition, or the DSM - V gives specific diagnostic criteria to meet for a diagnosis of OCD. First and foremost, they need to have the presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both. The obsessions and/or compulsions need to also be time-consuming, often such that it produces distress with their social and work life, for example, taking two hours per day folding and unfolding clothes and then being late for work. It’s also important that the obsessions and compulsions are not due to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.
Finally, the apparent anxiety isn’t better explained by another mental disorder, like for example, an obsession with personal appearance like in dysmorphic disorder. Like most mental disorders, there isn’t a known cause of OCD, though it’s thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Sometimes OCD seems to run in families, and an important clue is that identical twins are more often affected than non-identical twins. It’s now thought that abnormalities in serotonin neurotransmission in the brain plays a key role, though the exact mechanism is unknown.
Treatment usually involves psychotherapy, medications, or both. Among psychotherapy options, cognitive behavior therapy has been effective, specifically a technique called exposure and response therapy, where patients are first exposed to the anxiety and compulsion-provoking situation; ultimately showing that the anxiety actually lessons when the compulsion is not carried out. Because the cause has been linked to serotonin, selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, have been shown to be an effective drug treatment, though they often come with symptoms and side effects that may need to be further treated with medications or psychotherapy. With the right treatment, patients often return to normal daily life and activities.
Video Transcript
Double-checking things is a pretty common human behavior, like, Did I shut the garage door? I better double-check. How about locking the front door? Double-check. Gas-stove and oven off? Double-check. We all do it.
But what if you feel compelled to triple-check it, or even quadruple check it, or quintuple check it even. Then it might be considered an obsession.
Now, what if you have to do a certain ritual with the gas-stove and oven before leaving the home each time, like: make sure the gas-stove is off, wipe down the gas stove to clean it, double-check that the burners are off, make sure the oven is off, wipe down the oven to clean it, and then open the oven door to make sure no heat is coming out, and then leave the house.
Then that might be a compulsion.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a specific type of anxiety disorder characterized by these obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and intrusive thoughts that are typically unwanted and tough to get out of your brain. These unwanted thoughts like “my house is unsafe”, cause anxiety, and usually, they lead to compulsions, which are actions that might be performed to try and reduce the anxiety associated with obsessions.
As you might imagine, these thoughts and rituals can have a serious impact on someone’s daily life. OCD affects around 3% of the population and affects both men and women equally and usually starts in childhood or in the teen years.
Celebrities like David Beckham and Howie Mandel are known to be affected by OCD, and a more severe example is that of Howard Hughes, business tycoon, and entrepreneur, among other things, who was been affected by relatively incapacitating OCD later in his life.
Although obsessive-compulsive includes both obsessions and compulsions, one doesn’t need both obsessions and compulsions for diagnosis, some individuals might have just obsessions or just compulsions, but the majority of patients have both, often where the compulsion is performed to alleviate an obsession.
A very common compulsion is cleaning, which often stems from an obsession with germs or contamination.
Another common compulsion is checking, usually, because they have obsessions that something’s unsafe, so they’ll check to make sure that something’s definitely locked by unlocking and re-locking, sometimes several times.
More generally, repeating is a compulsion on its own, where an action or phrase is repeated several times, and usually, this is done because if it’s not, they think something bad will happen.
Sometimes patients might feel compelled to order and arrange things because when they’re out of order, it causes anxiety and discomfort.
Finally, mental rituals are also obsessions, these are often done to try and neutralize intrusive or—what they think are—bad thoughts. So they might try and call up specific words or phrases they think are good thoughts to try and replace the bad thoughts.
Now the diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders, the fifth edition, or the DSM - V gives specific diagnostic criteria to meet for a diagnosis of OCD. First and foremost, they need to have the presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both. The obsessions and/or compulsions need to also be time-consuming, often such that it produces distress with their social and work life, for example, taking two hours per day folding and unfolding clothes and then being late for work. It’s also important that the obsessions and compulsions are not due to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.
Finally, the apparent anxiety isn’t better explained by another mental disorder, like for example, an obsession with personal appearance like in dysmorphic disorder. Like most mental disorders, there isn’t a known cause of OCD, though it’s thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Sometimes OCD seems to run in families, and an important clue is that identical twins are more often affected than non-identical twins. It’s now thought that abnormalities in serotonin neurotransmission in the brain plays a key role, though the exact mechanism is unknown.
Treatment usually involves psychotherapy, medications, or both. Among psychotherapy options, cognitive behavior therapy has been effective, specifically a technique called exposure and response therapy, where patients are first exposed to the anxiety and compulsion-provoking situation; ultimately showing that the anxiety actually lessons when the compulsion is not carried out. Because the cause has been linked to serotonin, selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, have been shown to be an effective drug treatment, though they often come with symptoms and side effects that may need to be further treated with medications or psychotherapy. With the right treatment, patients often return to normal daily life and activities.

Types of OCD 

Now that you know a bit about the basics of OCD, let’s dive into the different types of OCD.

 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Symmetry and Orderliness 

Those who suffer from this type of OCD have a need to have everything ‘just right’. They think that by keeping everything just right, they’re preventing harm of discomfort.

Here are some things someone with this type of OCD may fixate on:

  • Keeping everything neat and in its place
  • Having food items or other items all facing the same way
  • Having clothes hanging perfectly in the closet
  • Having books lined up perfectly on the shelf
  • Keeping everything spotless

Contamination 

Those who suffer from a contamination type of OCD will typically spend time cleaning themselves or their surroundings to an unhealthy degree.

Common contamination obsessions and compulsions may include:

  • Avoidance or fear of using public toilets
  • Persistently worrying about germs and sickness
  • Thoughts about feeling unclean and dirty
  • Fear of being exposed to blood, toxic chemicals, viruses, or other sources of contamination
  • The compulsion to wash contaminated items
  • Specific cleaning or washing rituals
  • Going to great lengths to avoid hospitals, restaurants, crowds, public telephones, public bathrooms, etc
  • Obsessive teeth brushing
  • A compulsion to remove items you consider dirty
  • Fear of coming into contact with germs from coins and notes, leading to the avoidance of using cash

Typically, those who suffer from contamination OCD will perform their cleaning and washing rituals multiple times. So much so that the time they put into these rituals can affect their relationships and their ability to hold down a job.

 

Mental Contamination 

Mental contamination is a sub-category of contamination-related OCD. However, instead of being worried about physical germs, those with mental contamination issues worry about internal uncleanliness.

Often times, this type of OCD is brought on by another psychological trauma. For example, if someone has suffered intense ridicule, they may turn to washing themselves repeatedly to ‘cleanse themselves’ of their ‘badness’.

 

Hoarding 

Due to the myriad of popular TV shows surrounding this illness, hoarding has become one of the most widely recognized forms of OCD.

Those who suffer from hoarding typically have their homes littered with objects that are both old and useless. Oftentimes, it’s to the point where hoarders can only have a small living space left over. Those who suffer from hoarding will keep everything from old newspapers to used plastic bags to old food.

This tends to be one of the most dangerous forms of OCD, as the unhygienic atmosphere can lead to a number of different diseases. Plus, if the home were to catch on fire, the person may have difficulty getting out.

Some hoarders do so due to sentimental reasons. They attach an unhealthy amount of emotional significance to each object, making them difficult to get rid of. Others suffer from a deprivation type of hoarding, in which the hoarder feels like they’re unable to get rid of things in case they might need it in the future.

There are also hoarders who are motivated by preventing harm to others. For example, a hoarder may hold onto a broken piece of glass because they’re afraid it might hurt somebody.

 

Ruminations 

Those who suffer from rumination-related OCD go on prolonged trains of thinking about a certain theme or question that is unproductive or undirected.

Those who suffer from ruminations like to indulge in these patterns of thought rather than resist them. Oftentimes, they revolve around philosophical, religious, or metaphysical topics.

One time-consuming question that a person might dwell on would be, “What happens after we die?”

While this is something that everyone thinks about from time to time, those with OCD may let this thought eat up their whole day. And, they may become so consumed by the question that they become extremely pre-occupied and detach themselves from others.

 

Intrusive Thoughts

Unlike ruminators, who indulge in their thoughts, this type of OCD sufferer feels disturbed and bombarded by the thoughts that enter their mind.

Oftentimes, these thoughts are related to:

  • Sexuality
  • Religion
  • Violence
  • Bodily sensations
  • Magical thinking
  • Relationships

For example, someone who has intrusive thoughts related to relationships may find themselves constantly fearing the faithfulness of their partner. Or, those who are dealing with violent thoughts may be afraid of the idea of harming a loved one or harming themselves.

Types of OCD: Now You Know 

As you can see, there are many different types of OCD out there, which means two people who suffer from OCD can display widely different symptoms. Many people who suffer from OCD also do so in conjunction with addiction. If this sounds like you, then get in contact with us today to learn how we can help you recover.