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What Are The 4 Types of OCD

What Are The 4 Types of OCD

What Are The 4 Types of OCD

Published: February 9, 2023

Symptoms of OCD can cause profound distress and significant impairment to one's life. That is why it is important to seek OCD treatment if you or a loved one are suffering.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic and long-lasting mental health condition and disorder in which an individual has uncontrollable recurring thoughts known as "obsessions" and or behaviors known as " compulsions" which one feels the urge to repeat over and over.

According to the New England OCD Institute, there are many different OCD types, but all of them can fit into the following four categories, called symptom dimensions:

  • Contamination OCD
  • Taboo Thoughts OCD
  • Order and Symmetry OCD
  • Repetitive Checking OCD

People with OCD experience repetitive thoughts, and their compulsive behaviors vary according to the specific obsessive-compulsive disorder they have.


Obsessions are caused by individual recurring intrusive thoughts on a topic or theme. We can describe these as being unwanted and often unexpected distressing thoughts, images, impulses, or urges. They can occur spontaneously to external or internal stimuli.

Distressful and unwanted thoughts then lead to obsessions. Obsessions are also unwanted and unpleasant thoughts, images, or urges that repeatedly come to one's mind, causing negative feelings such as anxiety, unease, or disgust.


Rumination is the process of continuously thinking about the same thoughts, which are usually sad or disturbing. Many individuals use rumination as an attempt to solve or reverse the expected problems from their intrusive thoughts, again with negative implications.

In a sense, unwanted thoughts are negative thoughts, and rumination is the process of the same thoughts in a cycle or spiral. In that process, to prevent the thought scenario from happening, a person feels compelled to change their behaviors.

Such changes in behaviors are known as compulsions and lead to repeating the same behaviors over and over again to prevent suffering - and sometimes, such behaviors can take at least an hour daily to perform.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Cycle

We can describe obsessive-compulsive disorders as being a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. An individual firstly has constant unwanted obsessions about a certain topic that causes intense anxiety.

Then, in an attempt to eliminate such obsessions and anxiety, one has compulsive behavior. This is when they perform mental rituals and repetitive behaviors, which leads to a relief in anxiety levels. However, the entire cycle tends to repeat itself - leading to a destructive cycle.

Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Symptoms

Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Symptoms

Several contributing factors can increase one's chances of developing an obsessive-compulsive disorder:

  • Genetics and family history - often, OCD is an inherited disorder. This means that if you have a family member with OCD, you are more likely to develop one yourself.
  • Brain structure - studies suggest OCD may result from the body's natural chemistry or brain chemicals. Certain brain chemicals that are responsible for sending messages between nerve cells in the brain may also suffer imbalances, which can lead to developed mental disorders, including OCD.
  • Environmental factors such as trauma and stress - trauma and situations of high levels of stress can trigger unwanted thoughts and emotional distress, which are characteristics of OCD.
  • Diagnosis of another health condition - those who have OCD may also have other mental health conditions, such as depression or schizophrenia. In the same manner, it's very common for individuals with OCD to show symptoms of other neurological conditions.
  • Severe illness - in rare cases, OCD may develop in children aged between three and twelve that have illnesses caused by streptococcal infections, such as scarlet fever and strep throat. This is known as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders.

Contamination OCD Symptoms

This type of obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by excessive concern regarding the threat of illnesses caused by contaminants. This OCD also involves strong feelings of being physically unclean and mentally polluted.

Additionally, to avoid such scenarios, individuals might decide to avoid certain places and situations and perform rituals like sterilizing and changing clothes frequently. This situation can create anxiety and other feelings such as fear, discomfort, and even disgust.

Common Obsessions in Contamination OCD:

  • Intense fear of becoming contaminated by touching certain types of substances or items in particular places, and contaminating others
  • Obsessive fears about stinky residues, grease, or dirt on clothing or own body
  • Obsessive fears about HIV, cancer, blood, feces, urine, or other bodily fluids
  • Fear of mental contamination
  • Extreme fear of being coughed or sneezed on
  • Taking on negative personality traits of a trigger person
  • Fear of wearing clothes that have come in contact with any contaminants
  • Fear of spreading contaminants around their house, bedroom, car, personal belongings

Common Compulsions in Contamination OCD:

  • Avoiding public spaces
  • Avoiding the touch of other people
  • Washing and cleaning yourself repeatedly
  • Changing clothes frequently or discarding clothes or other items that have become "contaminated"
  • Excessive bathing - consuming large amounts of time
  • Seeking reassurance that they have not been "contaminated"
Taboo Thoughts OCD Symptoms

Taboo Thoughts OCD Symptoms

This type of OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts that severely violate one's values or morals. In addition to this, this obsessive-compulsive disorder is considered to be primarily obsessional due to its lack of physical rituals.

Usually, taboo thoughts involve - aggression or violence, religious ideas, those of a sexual nature, and health anxiety. Instead of performing obvious rituals, individuals with this type of OCD will perform a mental effort to ruminate their thoughts and seek excessive reassurance.

It is also important to note that typically, people with this type of disorder are not violent nor want to act on their urges, but they feel they might.

Aggression and Violence

For instance, if one has aggressive and violent recurring thoughts, such as harming a family member, they might go to extremes to make sure everyone is safe around them.

Religious Nature

Likewise, those who have obsessions of religious nature are constantly worried they are committing a sin or breaking a religious rule. They might try to control these thoughts by performing a mental ritualization, like arguing with themselves about morality or using excessive praying to feel they are morally better people.


This category describes individuals with obsessive thoughts of sexual nature. That said, people's thoughts surround the idea of them discovering sexual tendencies that are different from their nature. For example, being attracted to children or even animals.

Individuals with this type of OCD also have persistent worry about behaving inappropriately, such as seducing a married colleague or even committing a violent sexual crime.

Aside from experiencing high levels of anxiety related to this, this symptom dimension can also cause individuals to have doubts about their sexual orientation.

Health Anxiety

Lastly, healthy anxiety is when people have excessive anxiety about their health, including mental health, and worry something may be wrong with them.

For example, one can fear they are not perceiving reality, are psychotic, or even they'll hurt or kill themselves.

Studies show that people with these types of OCD are in significant distress when compared to other types of OCD. Additionally, over time individuals can shift between different OCD obsessions and compulsions.

Order and Symmetry OCD Symptoms

This type of OCD causes people to fixate on the arrangement or position of specific objects. These behaviors can also be accompanied by magical thinking, such as if one doesn't align the plates, a loved one would have a car accident.

These worries with order and symmetry often result in fixation, and if individuals perceive an item as not being properly aligned, they might experience extreme anxiety levels.

Also, these symptoms affect the writing of some as they struggle to make the writing look perfect, which sometimes means writing the same thing over and over.

Repetitive Checking and Harm OCD Symptoms

Repetitive Checking and Harm OCD Symptoms

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, individuals with repetitive checking, or harm OCD, have obsessions and fears related to doing accidental harm to themselves or someone else.

Repetitive checking behaviors include checking if the door is locked multiple times and ensuring the appliances are off. As a result, it is common for those with repetitive checking OCD to distrust their memory to the point of questioning their memories, which gets worse every time they engage in compulsive behaviors.

Common Obsessions in Repetitive Checking OCD:

  • Fear of something bad happening to yourself or others
  • Unwanted thoughts of not taking action to prevent harm
  • Fear one will say something hurtful or make a mistake
  • Fear of losing an important or meaningful item

Common Compulsions in Repetitive Checking OCD:

  • Repeatedly checking if appliances are off
  • Mentally checking what was done or not done
  • Seeking reassurance regarding if one did something
  • Repeatedly ensuring doors and windows are closed and locked
  • Inspecting things closely, potentially even taking pictures to confirm suspicions
  • Avoiding certain tasks, interactions, etc in an attempt to avoid checking and feeling anxiety

Other Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

Other OCD types include:

  • Hoarding OCD
  • Sexual orientation OCD
  • False memory OCD
  • Relationship OCD

In the same manner, some people can develop another mental illness and disorders associated with OCD, such as:

  • Hair pulling disorder- Trichotillomania
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Skin picking disorder

Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

With professional treatment, you can manage symptoms of OCD and take care of your mental health. There are multiple ways in which medical care professionals might help you treat OCD.

These are some treatment methods used in treating OCD:

  • Medications - some medications have been proven effective to treat OCD, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep brain stimulation - these techniques of deep brain stimulation are thought to shift the brain's functioning in certain ways and stimulate nerve cells.
  • Habit reversal training or cognitive behavioral therapy - more specifically, the type of exposure and response prevention (ERP), is the most commonly used therapy to treat all types of OCD symptoms. This exposure and response prevention will help you to better deal with your obsessions and subsequent compulsions.

GIA Miami

GIA Miami is a luxury wellness center for the treatment of mental health conditions and addiction, including all types of OCD. We provide a number of treatment options following a comprehensive individualized assessment to help us define the best treatment plan for your condition to ensure long-term recovery, free of relapses.

All services we provide are backed by science to ensure successful outcomes for:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Addictions
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Dual Diagnosis - both substance abuse and other co-occurring mental illnesses

At GIA Miami, we believe the secret of successful treatment starts with a compassionate relationship with our clients.

If you are worried you or a loved one are experiencing an obsessive-compulsive disorder, get in touch with GIA Miami today to find out more about your treatment options.

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