You may have seen a blockbuster hit where the comedic support is filled by a quirky clean freak with something called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
The leading actor may get upset over a love interest but no matter how much he tries to confide in his OCD friend, all they seem to care about is the cleanliness of the silverware.
It gets a good laugh in the theaters, sure, but this common media portrayal of obsessive compulsive disorder is not only taking away from the incapacitating severity of this disorder, it’s also neglecting to show the many different types of OCD.
What Is OCD?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the official OCD definition is:
- A presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both
- The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming
- The obsessive-compulsive symptoms are not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition
- The disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder
A bit dry huh?
To put it in terms easier to understand, OCD is a type of anxiety disorder. It’s characterized by overwhelming thoughts and urges that are usually involuntary and can be extremely difficult to cope with.
Unlike other anxiety disorders though, obsessive compulsive disorder usually results in developing certain “rituals” that aim to help cope with the anxieties that these obsessions create.
They could be flicking lights on and off a certain number of times or even refusing to step on cracks while walking on the sidewalk.
These rituals, however, do little to actually deal directly with the obsession that’s spurring the behaviors in the first place. In fact, many OCD sufferers get very little relief at all from performing such actions.
Similar to a process addiction, the brain has become hardwired to make not engaging in these compulsory behaviors almost impossible.
What Causes OCD?
When it comes to what exactly causes this disorder, the science is still out. Simply put, there’s a lot more research that still needs to be done.
What we do know, however, is that there are a few confirmed risk factors that help us understand what causes different OCD types. They are:
- Genetics – People with first-degree relatives like parents, siblings, or children that develop OCD as a child or teen are at a significantly higher risk of developing types of OCD.
- Brain Structure – Scientists have begun narrowing down differences in the frontal cortex between OCD and non-OCD test subjects that might point to specific areas of the brain that are affected.
- Environment – Experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional abuse at a young age has also been shown to be a risk factor when it comes to developing obsessive compulsive disorder. Various types of OCD may also develop in children following a streptococcal infection.
Signs of OCD to Look for
While this disorder presents itself in a variety of ways, there are a few OCD symptoms to watch out for if you suspect you or someone you know may have obsessive compulsive disorder.
Here are just a few signs of OCD, many of which come directly from the National Institutes of Mental Health:
- Needing for things to be perfectly symmetrical
- Cleaning both the self and the surrounding environment obsessively
- Having disturbing intrusive thoughts
- Engaging in compulsive behaviors that are uncontrollable
- Even when thoughts or behaviors are recognized as being excessive, people with different types of OCD still cannot stop them
- Spending at least 1 hour a day on these thoughts or behaviors
- Experiences significant problems on a daily basis due specifically to the behaviors from different types of OCD
- Not getting any pleasure from such compulsive behaviors
- Being unable to control thoughts or behaviors despite recognizing that such obsessions and compulsions are irrational
Other OCD symptoms may include having a hard time maintaining a job due to worrying about these obsessions or due to the time spent performing these compulsions.
People with different types of OCD may also have a hard time interacting with the outside world. They may be worried about contamination from different germs or diseases or feel they’re unable to communicate with others in social situations.
This is what’s known as agoraphobia. And while this disease doesn’t always necessarily appear with all types of OCD, they do sometimes have a tendency to overlap.
The Many Different Types of OCD
Even in a modern society that’s far more advanced and progressive when it comes to categorizing mental and anxiety disorders, there still remains a lot of work to be done on examining the different types of obsessive compulsive disorder.
And while there surely are many more types of this disorder that have yet to be categorized, specialists generally lump cases of OCD types into six separate categories:
- Mental Contamination
- Intrusive Thoughts
Although these categories of OCD can be helpful in designating symptoms, risks, and treatment plans, it is not uncommon for sufferers to present symptoms from multiple types of OCD.
What’s more, research into mental illnesses is and will likely always be a work in progress. It’s worth mentioning, then, that this list is in no way the be-all and end-all authority on the types of obsessive compulsive disorder.
As such, more types of OCD may still be out there and may remain undiscovered and uncategorized for years. The science on mental health is always changing.
While there may not be a definitive types of OCD test, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) does offer an OCD test that helps you recognize and mark off a variety of types of obsessive-compulsive behaviors to help you and your physician diagnose the problem.
There are also a number of different types of OCD tests available to help you during the self-assessment phase. These OCD types quizzes can help you recognize some of the different signs and symptoms of various types of obsessive-compulsive disorder, so you can start seeking out professional help.
A number of the most beneficial types of OCD tests available are listed below.
Ultimately, though, only a licensed doctor can officially diagnose you with obsessive compulsive disorder so be sure to consult your physician accordingly.
As such, be sure to speak with a licensed physician before self-diagnosing and jumping to any drastic conclusions.
OCD Types: Checking
One of the most commonly presented types of OCD is “Checking OCD.” It’s typically shown in the media in the form of compulsive behaviors like locking and unlocking a door hundreds of times or flicking a light switch repeatedly.
These acts might seem ridiculous to some people, even humorous perhaps. But the truth is that someone suffering from OCD that displays such actions is typically riddled with anxiety, so much so that their personal life suffers tremendously.
They may, for example, engage in such compulsions for literally hours at a time, making it difficult or even impossible to maintain a job or social relationships.
Just like other compulsions, these types of OCD can be the result of obsessions that plague the mind of the sufferers.
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What Are Some of the Checking OCD Symptoms?
These anxieties can be connected to a wide range of things resulting in behaviors like checking:
- Door and window locks
- Water taps
These types of OCD can also manifest in obsessive behaviors that seem unrelated to personal safety like:
- Re-reading documents obsessively before sending them to ensure nothing inadvertently offensive is included
- Checking in on loved ones over and over again
- Researching symptoms of a disease constantly
- Obsessing over information to make sure they don’t miss an important detail
- Asking for reassurance from loved ones that they weren’t offended by the sufferer’s remarks
OCD Types: Contamination
You may have seen representations of these types of OCD in movies like As Good As It Gets or Matchstick Men. Obsessive compulsive sufferers that have a contamination-related compulsion or obsession will typically be found washing themselves or their environment to an unhealthy degree.
They may, for instance, buy a large quantity of individually wrapped hand soaps, use each once, and open a new package every time they need to wash their hands.
Such behaviors are commonly driven by an extreme fear of contracting diseases through germs that may be clinging to surfaces.
For this reason, sufferers of these types of obsessive compulsive disorder may go to great lengths to avoid:
- The outdoors
- Contact with other people
- Public restrooms
- Door knobs and handles
OCD Types: Mental Contamination
A sub-category of the Contamination type of OCD, Mental Contamination is much the same as the physical contamination version. However, instead of physical germs being the source of an individual’s obsession is a type of internal uncleanliness.
In many cases, such uncleanliness is brought on by being psychologically hurt. If, for instance, these types of OCD sufferers are ridiculed by someone then they may spend hours upon hours engaging in compulsive behaviors like washing their bodies.
It’s the emotional damage, then, that causes the compulsions, not the fear of physical illness.
OCD Types: Hoarding
Due to the meteoric rise in popularity of shows related to this type of OCD, hoarding has become one of the most widely recognized types of obsessive compulsive disorder.
These types of OCD are characterized by:
- An inability to discard old, unusable items
- A compulsion to collect a large number of useless items
- Difficulty organizing these objects
These individuals will generally have homes that are littered with innumerable old and useless items, so much so that the hoarders themselves will typically only be able to use a very small part of their own home.
Old newspapers, used plastic bags, decaying food, and even human waste are just a few examples of material that a hoarder may be incapable of throwing away.
This tends to be one of the most dangerous types of OCD for a few reasons. First, an unhygienic environment can lead to contracting a number of different diseases, some of which can end up being fatal.
Beyond hygienic reasons though, the home of a hoarder may be difficult to navigate. As such, if the homes of sufferers of this type of OCD end up experiencing a fire, the individual may be unable to get out safely as a result of all the piled up materials.
The 3 Types of Hoarding
Hoarding can be broken down into three different categories:
- Sentimental Hoarding – This type of hoarder attaches a lot of emotional significance to each object, making it very difficult to ever get rid of it. In fact, they may begin to believe that discarding such an object may actually make it impossible to hold on to the memory associated with it.
- Deprivation Hoarding – This type of hoarding is characterized by being unable to throw away an item because they may need it in the future, no matter how unlikely such a situation really is. Only wearing one pair of shoes but owning fifteen others just in case, for instance, is one example of deprivation hoarding.
- Preventing Harm to Others Hoarding – Holding onto certain items like broken glass or even human waste because it might harm others is part of this type of hoarding. Even though such fears are irrational, these types of hoarders are trying to protect other people at the expense of themselves.
OCD Types: Ruminations
To “ruminate” derives from the Latin root word ruminari which means literally ‘chewed over.’ And just how a cow ruminates on cud, chewing on a single chunk endlessly, someone with obsessive compulsive disorder may suffer from seemingly endless ruminations themselves.
Rather than grass though, their ruminations are on prolonged chains of thought on topics that might be entirely unproductive.
The differentiating characteristic here is that such thoughts aren’t really objectionable like intrusive thoughts. Instead, these types of OCD sufferers may spend hours upon hours each day indulging in such thoughts rather than trying to suppress them.
OCD Types: Intrusive Thoughts
Unlike ruminations, intrusive thoughts are typically disturbing for the individual afflicted by them. They occur involuntarily and can be concerned with almost any variety of topics. These types of OCD sufferers may be bombarded with unwelcome thoughts concerning:
- Sexuality – Fear of being sexually attracted to members of the same sex, sexual thoughts about religious figures, fear of being attracted to children and family members, etc.
- Relationships – Obsessive need for approval, constantly doubting the faithfulness of a partner, over-analyzing a partner’s actions and feelings, etc.
- Magical Thinking – Fearing that thoughts directly influence unrelated events like the weather or a car crash. It may also lead people to believe thinking about an action will increase the likelihood that they’ll commit that action.
- Religion – An obsession with religious ritual like repeating prayers or kissing objects, believing that they have committed unknown sins and are destined for hell, a fear of defiling a religious location or custom, etc.
- Bodily Sensations (Sensorimotor OCD) – Hyperawareness of specific bodily functions like breathing, blinking, visual distractions, swallowing, or focusing intently on a single part of the body.
- Violence – Fears of carrying out violent acts against loved ones or innocent people, jumping in front of a train or other vehicle, poisoning people, etc.
- Symmetry and Order – Being obsessed with having everything “just right.” It could be pictures on a table, books on a shelf, keeping windows smudge-free, etc.
Types of OCD Test
While one of the most highly regarded types of OCD tests is the ADAA’s OCD screening tool, there are a number of other assessments available to choose from.
DSM-V Clinical Criteria – You can use the criteria pointed out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-V as one of the most clinically-backed types of OCD tests available. These guidelines are used by licensed physicians and psychiatrists around the world to diagnose OCD.
OCD Types – You can also use the Types of OCD Test from OCD Types. This website offers a short 18-question quiz that can help you determine what type of OCD you may have. It also provides information on the various types of OCD as well.
PsychCentral – The psychology information resource PsychCentral also offers an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Screening Quiz you can use to get a better handle on what types of OCD you are ranking for.
Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale – A self-rating scale that features 10 questions along with a sliding scale of severity of answers, these types of OCD test breaks up the questions into obsessions (first 5 questions) and compulsions (last 5 questions). The Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale is well respected and especially helpful in recognizing OCD.
OCD Center of Los Angeles – The OCD Center of Los Angeles, which has been serving the community since 1999, also has quite a comprehensive OCD test you can use to evaluate whether you’re suffering from one of the many types of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The test consists of 30 questions and doesn’t take more than a few minutes to complete.
Types of OCD Treatments
Just like treating a substance use disorder, the effects of obsessive compulsive disorder can be lessened with the help of two types of OCD treatments: medication and psychotherapy.
It’s worth noting though that while a good portion of sufferers do end up seeing improvement after being treated, some may still experience symptoms for the rest of their lives.
When it comes to medications, physicians have seen great promise with five drugs in particular:
You and your doctor will determine which medication is right for your particular case.
Additional treatment options involving psychotherapy include counseling to help treat co-occurring disorders like depression or anxiety as well as holistic treatment options such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).
Types of OCD & Comorbidity: Mood Disorders
Almost all types of OCD are associated with overlapping psychological disorders. Some of the most common ones include anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. And the comorbidity of these disorders is quite likely.
According to Stanford Medicine, comorbidity rates for different types of OCD and various mood disorders are:
- 31% have major depression
- 11% have social phobia
- 8% have an eating disorder
- 7% have simple phobia
- 6% have panic disorder
- 5% have Tourette’s syndrome
Another study found that the most common mood disorders affecting sufferers of different types of OCD were “major depression, which affected more than one-half, other anxiety disorders, affecting one-quarter, and personality disorders, diagnosed in a little more than 10%.
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And when you think about how dramatically these types of OCD can impact your life, it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that there is a substantial overlap between such disorders.
Different forms of OCD can also increase the risk of developing a substance addiction as well. And once an addiction develops, it can become inextricably linked with your OCD, making it nearly impossible to effectively treat one without also treating the other.
This is what’s known as having a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis. And when it comes to the different types of obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction, the likelihood of these two overlapping may be much higher than you think.
In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the co-occurrence of a substance use disorder along with the various OCD types may be as high as 40%.
That’s why it’s so important that if you are struggling with one of the numerous forms of OCD as well as a substance use disorder, you simply must find a co-occurring disorder treatment program to help you throughout the recovery process.
These programs are specifically designed to tackle the unique challenges that appear when addiction overlaps with different types of OCD as well as other mental health problems like depression or anxiety.
Without a dual diagnosis program, the different types of OCD will end up exacerbating the recovery process and making relapse far more likely to occur further down the line.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: More Than a Punchline
Unfortunately, the many different types of OCD have been portrayed in the media as more of a quirk than a debilitating disorder. This has led to many people not truly understanding how incapacitating it can really be.
What’s more, the stereotype of an OCD sufferer simply being an intense “neat freak” distracts from the fact that in reality, there are many different ways the disorder presents itself, as we’ve shown.
With this information in mind, hopefully you can recognize that this disorder is much more than simply a quirky character flaw.
And beyond that, if you are suffering from a substance use disorder along with one or several of the many types of OCD, it’s important that you recognize the fact that you need a specialized dual diagnosis treatment program to aid in your recovery.
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International OCD Foundation (2017). About OCD. Retrieved from https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/
Mancebo, M. C., Grant, J.E., Pinto, A., Eisen, J.L., Rasmussen, S.A. (2008, Sep.). Substance Use Disorders in an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinical Sample. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2705178/
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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2015, Oct.). Mental Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders/mental
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