Common Types of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

In this article, we will explore the common types of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and help you gain a better understanding of this mental health condition. You will learn about the different subtypes of OCD, such as contamination OCD, checking OCD, and hoarding OCD, and how they manifest in daily life. We will also discuss the signs and symptoms associated with each subtype, providing you with valuable insights to recognize and potentially seek help if needed. So, let’s delve into the various types of OCD and raise awareness about this often misunderstood condition.

Common Types of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Common Types of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic mental health condition characterized by intrusive thoughts, images, or urges known as obsessions, and repetitive behaviors or mental acts known as compulsions. OCD affects millions of people worldwide, causing significant distress and impairing daily functioning. While OCD can manifest in various ways, there are several common types or subtypes that individuals may experience. In this article, we will explore the different types of OCD and their characteristics, obsessions, compulsions, as well as the causes and treatment options available.

Pure Obsessional OCD

Pure Obsessional OCD, also known as Pure O, is a subtype of OCD characterized by primarily experiencing obsessions without visible compulsions. People with Pure O exhibit intense and distressing intrusive thoughts, mental images, or urges that are often taboo or violent in nature. These obsessions may revolve around themes such as harming oneself or others, sexual or religious obsessions, or fears of losing control. Due to the absence of visible compulsions, individuals with Pure O may engage in covert mental rituals, such as mental reviewing or reassurance seeking, to alleviate anxiety caused by their obsessions.

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Contamination OCD

Contamination OCD is one of the most well-known subtypes of OCD. Individuals with contamination OCD have an intense fear of germs, dirt, or toxins and engage in excessive cleaning or avoidance behaviors to prevent contamination. Common obsessions in contamination OCD revolve around fear of contracting illnesses, coming into contact with bodily fluids, or contamination through objects in the environment. Compulsions may include excessive handwashing, avoiding public places or objects, or using protective barriers like gloves or masks.

Checking OCD

Checking OCD is characterized by repetitive checking behaviors triggered by fear of harm, damage, or making a mistake. Individuals with this subtype of OCD often experience intrusive thoughts related to forgetting something important, causing harm to oneself or others, or leaving appliances or doors unlocked. The compulsions associated with checking OCD involve repeatedly checking objects, locks, or switches, seeking reassurance from others, or repeatedly reviewing actions to ensure no mistakes were made.

Symmetry OCD

Symmetry OCD, also referred to as ordering or arranging OCD, involves an intense need for symmetry, exactness, or orderliness. People with symmetry OCD may feel extreme distress if objects are not arranged symmetrically or if things are not perfectly aligned. The obsessions in symmetry OCD often include a fear of something bad happening if things are not in perfect order or a persistent need for everything to feel “just right.” Common compulsions include repeatedly arranging or aligning objects, counting, or straightening items to achieve a sense of balance and symmetry.

Hoarding OCD

Hoarding OCD is characterized by an excessive accumulation of objects and difficulty discarding or letting go of possessions, regardless of their value or usefulness. People with hoarding OCD experience distress when attempting to discard items and often have a strong attachment to their possessions. Their living spaces may become cluttered, unsafe, and unsanitary due to the excessive hoarding behavior. Hoarding obsessions may include fears of needing an item in the future or sentimental attachments, while compulsions involve saving, collecting, or avoiding discarding objects.

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These are just a few of the common types of OCD that individuals may experience. It is important to note that many individuals may exhibit symptoms across multiple subtypes or display variations in their obsessions and compulsions. OCD can significantly impact one’s quality of life and relationships, making early detection and treatment crucial.


Causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The exact cause of OCD is still not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors contribute to its development.

Biological Factors

Studies have shown that individuals with OCD may have abnormalities in certain brain regions, particularly the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia, which are involved in decision-making, impulse control, and fear responses. These abnormalities may disrupt the normal functioning of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a role in regulating mood and behavior.

Genetic Factors

There is evidence to suggest that OCD has a genetic component, as the disorder tends to run in families. Twin and family studies have found that individuals with a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with OCD are at an increased risk of developing the disorder themselves. However, it is important to note that genetics alone are not sufficient to cause OCD, and other factors must also be present.

Environmental Factors

Certain environmental factors may contribute to the development or exacerbation of OCD symptoms. Traumatic events, such as physical or sexual abuse, can trigger or worsen symptoms of OCD in some individuals. Additionally, high levels of stress, disruptions in routine, or chronic illness may also contribute to the onset or worsening of OCD symptoms.

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Treatment Options for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

While there is currently no cure for OCD, there are effective treatment options available that can help individuals manage their symptoms and lead more fulfilling lives.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered the gold standard treatment for OCD. CBT for OCD typically involves exposure and response prevention (ERP), which is a form of therapy that helps individuals confront their fears and resist engaging in their compulsions or avoidance behaviors. By gradually exposing themselves to the situations or thoughts that trigger their obsessions and preventing the associated compulsions, individuals can learn to tolerate the anxiety and reduce their reliance on compulsive behaviors.


In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage the symptoms of OCD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine or sertraline, are commonly used medications for OCD. These medications work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can help reduce obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. It is important to work closely with a psychiatrist or healthcare provider to find the most appropriate medication and dosage for each individual.


In conclusion, OCD is a complex mental health disorder that manifests in various ways. The common types of OCD include Pure Obsessional OCD, Contamination OCD, Checking OCD, Symmetry OCD, and Hoarding OCD. While the specific obsessions and compulsions may differ, all types of OCD can cause significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. Early detection and treatment are crucial to managing symptoms and improving quality of life. With the help of therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, individuals with OCD can learn effective coping mechanisms and find relief from their symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of OCD, it is important to seek professional help to receive a proper diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.