Common Types of OCD

By Staff Writers

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental disorder. OCD is a combination of obsessions (recurring unwanted thoughts that cause anxiety) and Compulsions (repetitive behaviours and actions to reduce the anxiety from obsessions). 

Causes of OCD

OCD is a neuropsychiatric condition whose exact cause is yet not fully understood. However, researchers have shown numerous factors that play a significant role in triggering and developing OCD. Some common causes are enlisted below:

  • Psychological
  • Biological
  • Experiences
  • Learning
  • Genetics


OCD is commonly found in people with low self-esteem. They often feel as if they are flawed, and their thoughts about their OCD behaviours reinforce this belief.

OCD sufferers are also found to be perfectionists. They want everything precisely in order and often feel as if they need to perform flawlessly in every situation, and their thoughts about their OCD behaviours make them feel as if they can’t let anyone down.

Anxious people are likely to develop OCD. The high levels of anxiety force compulsions in response to intrusive thoughts. They constantly feel as if they are in danger and seek reassurances over and over.


Studies have found that impairment in the brain’s deeper structures can result in OCD. These structures communicate through serotonin, a neurotransmitter which carries messages from one part to the other.

A low level of serotonin can trigger OCD. That is why elevating serotonin levels by Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can alleviate anxiety symptoms and are thus commonly prescribed for treating OCD.


People with OCD have been found to have a history of trauma or abuse. Trauma can lead to a heightened sensitivity to environmental and emotional triggers.

They often confuse their thoughts with reality and think something terrible will happen if they don’t perform the ritual. Neglect, social isolation and bullying also contribute to developing OCD.


Obsessive anxieties and obsessive behaviours can also be learnt by observing friends and family or steadily over time.


Studies suggest that genetic and environmental factors may cause OCD. Scientists have found that individuals with a family history of OCD are more likely to develop the disorder themselves. Environmental factors (like stressors) can also increase the risk of developing OCD.

Types of OCD

Obsessions and compulsions differ from individual to individual, but doctors typically categorise them into particular groups. People frequently have symptoms from multiple categories, which might change over time.

The four common types of OCD are:

  • Contamination – Excessive Cleaning
  • Perfectionism – Symmetry and ordering
  • Harming – Checking and Rechecking
  • Forbidden thoughts – Taboo Thoughts

Contamination – Excessive Cleaning

It is the most common form of OCD, and if anyone mentions OCD, this is the type that pops up in our minds first.

Most contamination obsessions stem from a fear of infection or disease.

The degrees to which these obsessions can emerge depend on where the contamination obsession belongs in an OCD sufferer’s hierarchy or the severity of the OCD.

Nobody likes contaminated products or dirty floors, and unclean items. However, OCD sufferers take it to the extreme.

 For example, they will start cleaning the whole house if they see even a speckle of dust on the doorknob. Similarly, they avoid touching items that have been touched by anyone else before.

People suffering from OCD also feel obliged to save others from this contamination. 

Some of the common OCD symptoms are:

Fear of contracting diseases like HIV, Lyme disease or infection by using a public toilet or touching the public doorknob etc.

  • People are too concerned about touching and using household items or specific products. We know that some products, for instance, hair dye contain carcinogens and harmful substances. But these can only affect our health if swallowed. An OCD sufferer will not touch it because he thinks he can get cancer from it. 
  • Some people even don’t like pets such as dogs as they fear that animals feel dirty

Some of the compulsive behaviours are:

  • Washing hands excessively
  • Cleansing products before touching them
  • Frequent Cloth changing

Perfectionism – Symmetry and Ordering

People with this form of OCD want everything in a specific order to be ‘Just right. They feel distressed if things are not in a specific order.

For example, they will align their books on the bookshelf or put them in alphabetical order.

They want symmetry in everything.

Some of the common behaviours are:

  • Counting ritual
  • A strong desire for symmetry or organisation
  • Aligning everything so that their edges are even
  • Constantly rearranging things to feel right
  • Arranging everything alphabetically
  • Colour coding things

Harming – Checking and Rechecking

Some OCD sufferers constantly fear harming themselves or others ( friends and family).

They also think that someone else wants to hurt them. This obsessive thought constantly makes OCD sufferers anxious, and they seek reassurance from others if they are safe.

For example, a person fears someone breaking into the house and thus constantly checks if the doors and windows are closed.

Some of the common behaviours seen in such people are

  • Constantly checking and rechecking everything like door locks, stoves, windows, light switches, and so forth
  • Checking may involve a symmetrical component of checking a particular number of times
  • Checking their bodies for cuts and bruises
  • Asking other people all the time if they are good and healthy
  • Repeatedly examining everyday events (mentally or physically) to ensure nobody was injured

Forbidden Thoughts – Taboo Thoughts

This form of OCD is associated with unwanted, violent intrusive thoughts.

These thoughts are frequently aggressive, religious, or sexual in nature, and they severely contradict the person’s morals or ideals.

It was earlier thought to be merely obsessional (thought-based) but it is found that people with these thoughts do engage in compulsive behaviours to relieve the anxiety.

Some of the common behaviours are:

  • Recurrent intrusive ideas, which are frequently sexual, religious, or violent in origin
  • Persistent concern that acting on unwanted ideas will make one a bad person
  • Obsessions with religious concepts that seem heretical or incorrect
  • Performing mental practises to dispel or cancel away unwanted thoughts. Among these rites could be excessive praying, excessive reviewing or the need for reassurance. avoiding events.


Find out if you have OCD

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