Understanding the Many Types of OCD - Screen Shot 2019 11 22 at 1.49.09 PM
A Better Life Recovery

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. 

Types of OCD 

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


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’. 


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. 


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.

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

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.