The 5 most important types of OCD

The 5 most important types of OCD

These are the main types of OCD and their different ways of expressing themselves in symptoms.

There are three main characteristics of obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD. These characteristics are compulsions, obsessions, and anxiety caused by both.

Obsessions involve the appearance of repetitive thoughts or ideas that disrupt patients’ lives and make it difficult for them to concentrate beyond them. Compulsions are the consequence of obsessions and are used as a method to relieve the anxiety caused by them. That is, people do things in a specific way in response to obsessions.

Within Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) several main categories can be distinguished where different groups of symptoms are collected. In this article, we will look at the most common types of OCD.


What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is one of the 5 most common psychopathologies and is characterized by giving rise to a vicious circle of obsessions and compulsions, the two elements that are reflected in the name of this alteration.

Obsessions are intrusive thoughts that generate intense discomfort and make the person desperately looking for a way to distract their attention from that mental content or, at least, alleviate it by performing some action that reduces intensity; and the compulsion is precisely what he ends up doing to achieve it, an action based on a sequence of behaviors that is reinforced over time until we perceive it as the only solution to the obsessions.

In this way, the obsession gives rise to compulsion and vice versa, since both induce us to give great importance to the other, to predispose us to experience them in an intertwined way. In addition, when the OCD is consolidated, the obsessions usually increase in complexity and level of difficulty, so if the person makes a mistake when doing it, he feels that he needs to start over.

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What are the different types of OCD?

OCD can present itself in different ways, research suggests that people experience OCD symptoms in five main categories: cleaning and contamination, compulsive hoarding, symmetry and order, checking or verifying, and forbidden thoughts and impulses.

Although there is no official classification, the different groups of symptoms are described in the recent edition of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Therefore, mental health professionals prefer to refer to the different subtypes of obsessive-compulsive disorders as symptom dimensions.

1. OCD contamination

Obsessive Compulsive Pollution Disorder is a type of OCD that refers to the obsession with cleanliness and personal hygiene.

People with this type of OCD have the fear that they or their environment is contaminated and fear of contracting serious illnesses, that a person close to them will die for some reason related to germs, and the fear that they enter in contact with bacteria, viruses, and even bodily fluids.

Pollution OCD compulsions can be: avoid touching objects or people, avoid going to places, as these can threaten your health; use protection such as gloves, paper towels, and wash often (showering, washing hands repeatedly or with hydroalcoholic gel every time they touch something that may be contaminated). And, being afraid of contracting serious diseases, repeated health tests, such as tests for infections / sexually transmitted diseases (STIs / STDs).

2. Repeat OCD

People with this type of OCD think that if they don’t do a certain number of things, bad things will happen to them or their loved ones. The obsession with repetition OCD is to believe that if they don’t say, say, the word “heaven” 3 times, something catastrophic will happen near them. The compulsion, in this example, is the repetition of the word “heaven” so that nothing bad happens.

3. Hoarding OCD

People with compulsive hoarding disorder have great difficulty letting go of possessions they have. They have a persistent perception that the things they own need to be saved. This leads them to stock a lot of unnecessary items, even if they have no real value. People with this disorder are also prone to becoming distressed at the thought of getting rid of their possessions, frequently resulting in excessive clutter.

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The obsession in obsessive-compulsive hoarding disorder is the fear of accidentally throwing away something important. And, for its part, the compulsion is to keep all the objects and not throw anything away so as not to lose that relevant object. For example, if a person with compulsive hoarding OCD buys the newspaper every day and puts it away, they will never want to throw away the newspapers for fear of throwing away one that is special for some reason.

We have to differentiate compulsive hoarding disorder from Diogenes syndrome. In the case of Diogenes syndrome, what accumulates is garbage, while in hoarding disorder the person keeps the things that they consider necessary or valuable to them, they do not necessarily have to be disposable things.

4. TOC check or verification

People with checking or verifying obsessive-compulsive disorder need to check anything that might endanger them in some way. For example, verify that they have turned off the gas tap several times after cooking, for fear of an explosion. Or check that they have locked the door of the house when they leave, for fear of being robbed, going back to make sure of this.

In this case, the obsession is the fear that something bad will happen due to carelessness: a robbery, or an explosion, for example. And, the compulsion is the constant checking that they have locked the house or the car or the gas tap in the kitchen.

5. Order TOC

People with obsessive-compulsive order-disorder need to have everything ordered in a certain way because otherwise, again, they think something bad will happen. People with OCD often create patterns and norms to bring about that order. For example, the pens to the left of the notebook are placed in certain color order and parallel to the notebook.

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The obsession with this type of OCD is the need to place certain things in a certain way (such as pens) for the fear that if they are not placed in this way, something bad will happen. The compulsion, on the other hand, is the need to order them to reduce that fear.

Sometimes the obsessive-compulsive disorder of order is accompanied by the obsessive-compulsive disorder of contamination, which we have talked about previously.

Consequences of having OCD

Some people may think they have some kind of OCD because they are too tidy, or they are afraid to leave the car unlocked or the house keys in the ignition, or they are obsessed with personal or household hygiene. Thus, these manifestations are natural, we all have certain small obsessions regarding specific issues, and they do not in themselves constitute the suffering of any type of obsessive disorder.

However, we can speak of a person suffering from OCD when their way of ordering, cleaning (or washing) entails the achievement of rituals and steps that they cannot stop doing and are not carried out sensibly.

In addition, a person with OCD may constantly try to avoid situations in which they are exposed or fearful. This means that on some occasions, people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder see their daily life interfered with because of it, and consequently, develop other conditions such as depression or anxiety. OCD can also be a cause of social isolation or work problems.

Bibliographic references
  • Foa, E. B., Steketee, G., y Ozarow, B. J. (1985). Behavior therapy with obsessive-compulsives: From theory to treatment. En M. Mavisskalian (Ed.).
  • Fullana, M. A., Mataix-Cols, D., Caspi, A., y Harrington, H. (2009). Obsessions and Compulsions in the Community: Prevalence, Interference, Help-Seeking, developmental stability, and co-occurring psychiatric conditions. American Journal Psychiatry, 166, 329-36.
  • Vallejo, MA (2006). Guide to effective psychological treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder. In M. Pérez (coord.), JR Fernández (coord.), C. Fernández (coord.), and I. Amigo (Coord.). Guide to effective psychological treatments I (pp. 337-353). Madrid: Pyramid Editions.


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