Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that affects as many as one in 40 adults and one in 100 children. Someone who suffers from this illness might have regular thoughts or fears that interfere with their daily life.
While obsessive-compulsive disorder can be difficult to diagnose, it’s important to recognize the different types of obsessions and compulsions so you can get proper treatment if needed.
- Obsessions: Obsessions are recurrent, unwanted ideas, images or impulses that cause anxiety or distress; these thoughts are unwarranted and not connected to any life event or situation (for example, concerns about contamination).
- Compulsions: Compulsions refer to repetitive behaviors performed in response to an obsession; these behaviors bring temporary relief from discomfort caused by obsessions but they don’t actually reduce stress levels (for example, cleaning rituals).
It’s often a misunderstood condition, and many people don’t recognize the extent to which it can impact lives. But there are ways to get help alleviate symptoms of OCD with professional treatment and therapy. Here’s what you should know about the types of obsessive-compulsive disorder:
Checking is one of the many types of compulsions in OCD and can take many forms. Examples of checking include checking the locks on doors or windows; making sure that an appliance or light is turned off; checking to be sure you did not leave something burning on the stove; repeatedly washing your hands until they feel “just right.” Checking can help relieve anxiety or doubt by providing reassurance that something has been done properly or thoroughly.
Contamination / Mental Contamination
The fear of getting sick from germs is one of the different types of OCD obsessions, especially in children. It’s easy to understand why this phobia would be so prevalent: it’s hard to avoid getting sick when you’re exposed to sanitation-resistant bacteria and viruses all the time. The feeling of internal or mental dirtiness is called mental contamination. This type of OCD is usually characterized by the internal feeling of filth or dirtiness without experiencing any physical contamination and often leads to obsessive thoughts about harming oneself or others.
Intolerance of Uncertainty
People with intolerance of uncertainty often have difficulty making decisions and tend to avoid them, which can lead to problems in planning and organizing. They may also worry about the future, the past, or even the present. For example, someone who is overwhelmed with doubt about whether they should flip a coin will be unable to make any decision as a result. This can prevent someone suffering with OCD from doing things that seem simple to the average person, such as daily rituals like getting out of bed in the morning or brushing your teeth.
Hoarding is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that involves the accumulation of items, often of little value. Hoarding can result in unsafe living conditions and may be a symptom of other mental health issues. A person who hoards may also be reluctant to throw away possessions because they feel it will make them miss important memories or experiences associated with those items. In reality, this just means that your home is too full for you to live comfortably and safely as well as maintain good relationships with others close to you.
Violent or Disturbing Thoughts
Some people suffering with OCD may have thoughts about harming themselves or others, while others may be concerned about committing a crime. Thoughts like these are considered very common in the general population and do not mean someone has any desire to act on them. In fact, most people suffering from types of OCD find these kinds of thoughts both intrusive and disturbing, and have no desire to actually act them out.
Counting rituals are one of the more common types of OCD. People with counting rituals may have to count things repeatedly, or they may have to count things in multiples of 3 or 4. Some people with counting rituals may have to count things in multiples of 5 or 6.
Repeating What Is Said or Done
Repetitive behaviors are a common symptom of OCD. You might constantly check the stove to make sure it’s turned off, or you might wash your hands until they are red and raw. These repetitive behaviors can be as simple as touching something or counting things repeatedly—or they can be more complex. These compulsions usually start out as small rituals that go largely unnoticed, but over time they become so ingrained in your daily life that you feel like you have no control over them at all. You may not even realize how much time you spend on these types of compulsions until someone points it out to you.
Hiding and Organizing
Many people with OCD have a compulsion to hide, organize or collect things in an effort to prevent harm from coming to them or others. For example, someone with this form of OCD might hoard food because they believe that if they don’t store it properly then food poisoning will result. People may also have repetitive thoughts about symmetry and order, such as an obsession with arranging items on desks or tables perfectly straight.
If you have OCD, you’ll usually try to avoid situations that trigger your symptoms. For example, if you have a fear of germs and contamination, you might avoid touching doorknobs at work or school because you feel that it might make your hands dirty. If this happens often enough, your avoidant behavior can become a problem in itself—in other words, it can become part of your OCD symptoms.
Although trying not to think about something is hard work and may seem impossible at first glance, there are some things that can help:
- Try distracting yourself with other activities like listening to music or watching TV when an intrusive thought comes up. This might be easier said than done but give it a shot!
- Talk to a mental health professional and explore possible treatment options available to you.
If you have intrusive thoughts or are experiencing different types of obsessions and compulsions, it’s important to talk with a doctor about them. With proper treatment, you can learn how to manage your symptoms and get on with your life.
This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.