The Different Types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Friday March 1, 2024

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Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just so OCD about this,” or “Having things unorganized makes me so OCD”? While it can have specific triggers, the different types of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) don’t just stop and start. They are persistent and can take over your life without healthy coping methods.

Are you wondering if you might have one of the kinds of OCD? Do you have a loved one with it and want to learn more about it? Perhaps you simply didn’t know OCD is an umbrella and are curious about its different facets. Regardless of your purpose, you can find your answers below.

4 Different Types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

There are currently four main branches of OCD, along with a handful of subcategories. Overall, it’s defined as behavior revolving around obsessions — intrusive and irrationally negative thoughts — and compulsions — actions that either reduce anxiety or attempt to eliminate the outcome of the adverse, persistent idea. Here’s a look at the nitty-gritty of each of these categories.

Order OCD

This is probably one of the two types of OCD you think of when you hear the term. Order OCD will often look like a need to have everything in its place, have everything even or move something a certain number of times. You might show outward compulsions like physically adjusting something or inward ones like saying words in your head repeatedly.

Again, while someone might joke about having OCD because they like being neat, it needs to alter your life significantly to qualify. For example, you may reposition things a lot because you enjoy when they look perfect, but someone with OCD will do so for hours because their obsessive thoughts are triggering the compulsion.

Rumination OCD

This type of OCD is often less apparent because it mostly happens in the mind. Someone with this kind will have frequent intrusive thoughts that are sexual or violent, and have trouble letting the obsession go until they perform the compulsion to get rid of it. Rumination OCD includes but is not limited to the following categories:

  • Relationship OCD: Constantly worrying about being with the right person, flaws, or anxiety about the strength of the platonic or romantic relationship, culminating in enacting compulsions to relieve the stress or prevent the outcome
  • Harm OCD: Persistent fear of hurting yourself, loved ones or others, which can include undesired violent images or thoughts
  • Sexual orientation OCD: Rumination on your sexuality, repeatedly asking others for reassurance or questioning your attraction

These thoughts can be especially stress-inducing because they don’t align with a person’s morals. For instance, someone might have pedophilia OCD because they irrationally worry about harming a child or experience intrusive thoughts about doing so. This doesn’t mean someone actually is a pedophile or they’re a threat — in fact, people with rumination OCD frequently go to extremes to avoid these thoughts because they make them so uncomfortable.

Checking OCD

Checking OCD often consists of making sure things feel “just right.” The most common example is locking a door. Someone without this disorder might get in their car, forget if they locked their door, and simply get out and check. Alternatively, someone with OCD might experience the same first two occurrences but need to relock the door repeatedly until the task “feels” complete — no matter how long it takes.

However, checking OCD doesn’t stop at forgetting and needing to check. You might know for a fact you turned the oven off or unplugged your hair dryer, but your brain makes you doubt the memory. The obsessive idea then compulsively leads you to check multiple times.

Contamination OCD

This is the second of the different types of obsessive-compulsive disorder people typically imagine. Again, someone may clean a lot or separate their food because they like cleanliness or don’t like when things touch, but it becomes OCD when it’s a compulsion driven by an obsession. You might deeply fear getting sick or spreading illness to others, which causes you to scrub every surface for hours or wash your hands until it’s painful.

According to GoodRx, recent research shows those with contamination OCD may have an overactive disgust reaction. It’s much harder for them to let go of the feeling and they can experience it more frequently.

How the Kinds of OCD Can Affect Your Life

To many, the different types of obsessive-compulsive disorder might seem like something someone can just stop. “Come on, you know you turned the TV off, can we just go already?” But the second part of the condition’s name is “compulsive” — in other words, you cannot help performing the action because of your anxiety. You might spend a few minutes on the compulsion or it can take hours.

The obsessions aren’t a piece of cake, either — and being told “just stop thinking about it” doesn’t do anything for the situation. Because the thoughts are obsessive, you can’t prevent thinking about them or having them keep popping up. These ideas are also intrusive, so they aren’t desirable and cause the person immense distress. That’s why they perform the compulsions.

Obsessions and compulsions can be completely unrelated. Someone might start cleaning their room because they were told to but experience an intrusive thought that a family member will die if they don’t do it well enough. It could also get incredibly specific, like a fear of throwing up, accidentally hitting someone with their car or breaking religious rules they didn’t know they broke.

A therapist, psychiatrist or verified online resource can determine if you have OCD, if it fits into one of the subcategories, and help you find ways to manage it. Overall mental health tips could be key, but everyone operates differently. Exercise and patterned breathing might assist in relieving your anxiety causing obsessions and compulsions — however, some may find other strategies alongside professional work more effective. Always defer to your doctor over online advice.

Bring Up the Different Types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to Your Doctor

If these symptoms sound familiar, talk to your doctor about your concerns. They can get you started on your journey toward finding a therapist or psychiatrist that connects with you and is covered by your insurance. Even if you don’t end up with an OCD diagnosis, these professionals will offer management strategies and ways to adjust your thinking that’ll make your day-to-day much more manageable.

The different types of obsessive-compulsive disorder are hard to live with, but you’re strong and more than capable of handling it. Identifying your triggers and when they turn into obsessions that cause compulsions is the first step to a calmer mind.

Updated on March 1, 2024

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