Types of OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder presents itself in many guises, and certainly goes far beyond the common misconception that OCD is merely a little hand washing or checking light switches. Although those are valid OCD compulsions, such perceptions fail to acknowledge the  distressing thoughts that occur prior to such behaviours and also fails to highlight the utter devastation that constant compulsions (no matter what they are) can cause. Although there are infinite forms of OCD, it has been traditionally considered that a person’s OCD will fall into one of these five main categories, with themes often overlapping between categories too.

  • Checking
  • Contamination / Mental Contamination
  • Symmetry and ordering
  • Ruminations / Intrusive Thoughts
  • Hoarding

* Hoarding is included in the  list above, and may be an OCD compulsion, if  it is for obvious obsessive reasons. However, some aspects of hoarding are no longer considered to be OCD and may be a separate condition altogether. We look more at hoarding in the related disorders section of the website.

There are infinite types of OCD, it can impact on any thought, on any subject, on any person, on any fear, and frequently fixates on what’s important in a person’s life. For example, if religion is important to someone, OCD fixates on unwanted intrusive thoughts around religion, perhaps making the sufferer believe their actions/thoughts will offend their god. Another example is if someone begins a new relationship, OCD  can make a person question that relationship, their feelings, their sexuality resulting in almost constant rumination, perhaps with the sufferer worrying that they may be misleading their partner. The drop-down lists below will attempt to explain some of the more common manifestations of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, click the check mark to display:



Mental Contamination



Intrusive Thoughts

Symmetry and Orderliness

The above list categorises the more common forms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and some of the fears associated with them. But this is by no means an exhaustive list and there will always be other OCD types not listed here. So if you’re experiencing distressing and unwanted obsessions or compulsions not listed here, this does not mean it is definitely not OCD,  if these impact significantly on your everyday functioning this could still represent a principal component in the clinical diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and you should consult a doctor for a formal diagnosis. Regardless of the type of OCD a person may be suffering with, the following three components are generally present, triggers, avoidance and reassurance, but what do they all mean?




There are several terms and acronyms used within the OCD community and amongst health professionals which often lead to confusion.



Some people use acronyms to refer to different types of OCD. It is worth noting that these acronyms have no official medical meaning and are used mainly by the OCD community on OCD message boards on the internet. One of the problems with these acronyms is they have often been confused to mean different things to different people. For informational purposes the three main commonly used acronyms are:




Because these terms have no medical meaning and to avoid any confusion, we generally try and avoid using the acronyms in our writings where possible to ensure there is no loss of meaning or context. In fact, we actively discourage their use because  we have seen on multiple occasions the use of the acronyms leading  to some users experiencing a delay in accessing treatment. This happens where a person will seek specialists in (H/P/R)OCD but are unable to find any,  since they’re not  medically recognised terms. In fact, we don’t recommend therapists that specialise in any one type of OCD, because all forms of OCD  have the same treatment approach, addressing the O part and the C part. It may also hinder progress in understanding and tackling OCD because we know that OCD frequently changes guise chameleon-like (remember what we said about it focusing on objects/people that were important to us), as that changes in life, often so does  OCD. So it’s important we treat  OCD and not the (H/P/R). The good news is they're all equally as treatable through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) by any therapist that knows and understands OCD.

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