The Different Types of OCD

The stereotype of OCD is not wrong. There are people with obsessive compulsive disorder who need to repeatedly wash their hands, clean their homes and/ or have everything arranged in a particular order. They exist and are valid. The problem is not with acknowledging them within OCD however with ONLY acknowledging them. More importantly, with ONLY acknowledging the actions of one group and not the complexity of the condition beyond it. They are people with more dimensions to them than simply a compulsion itself.

Worryingly this oversimplification caused by focusing only on specific actions has lead to confusion between OCD and other conditions such as OCDPD. Often those with OCDPD are erased and unfairly made into the representatives of a disorder they do not have whilst lacking representation for the condition they do have. Based only on the actions that are used to stereotype OCD, a person with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder fits it far more than most with obsessive compulsive disorder. These are two distinct conditions that do not work in the same way. The actions may be similar however OCD is not based on the actions alone. A person who only takes pleasure from repeating the action does not qualify as having the anxiety disorder. If there is no significant distress and impairment then it is not OCD. It can be another equally valid condition but it is not obsessive compulsive disorder.

The focus on certain actions rather than full compulsions has resulted in many with OCD being left out of the discussion. It has included the wrong people at the expense of the right people.

Here is a small list of types of OCD (this list does not include all of them):

  • Checking
  • * Contamination
  • * Hoarding
  • * Ruminations
  • * Intrusive thoughts
  • * Relationship intrusive thoughts
  • * Sensorimotor
  • * Sexual intrusive
  • * Magical thinking intrusive
  • * Religious intrusive
  • * Violent intrusive
  • * Orderliness/ symmetry
  • * HOCD – homosexual
  • * POCD – paedophile
  • * Prenatal/ postpartum

Here is a list of actions and responses a person with OCD could take (again, this list only includes a small amount of examples):


  • Reopening letters before sending to make certain you have not wrote anything offensive.
  • * Checking your memory to make certain an intrusive though did not happen.
  • * Avoiding standing next to another person for fear of becoming ill.
  • * Avoiding certain colours, numbers, areas.
  • * Being unable to throw away useless objects.
  • * Dwelling on subjects that can not be solidly concluded.
  • * Having disturbing images repeatedly come into your mind.
  • * Excessively seeking reassurance.
  • * Focusing on frequency of blinking, swallowing or depth of breathing.
  • * Fear certain words will result in a loved ones death.
  • * Focusing on stopping blasphemous thoughts to avoid hell.
  • * Avoiding being around children out of fear of harming them.
  • * Having everything facing in the same direction.
  • * Owning no knives and using other nonthreatening objects in their place.

What is left out here is the interpretation that has lead to the action. The action alone does not connect the response to the individual. It describes obsessive compulsive disorder but not the important role of processing that is unique to the condition. Avoiding standing next to others out of fear of becoming ill does not explain why that connection (being by people = illness) was made. It only describes OCD on one level. The level the stereotype relies on to focus purely on certain actions without ever expanding on the reasons behind them.

Of course it is absurd to expect each individual interpretation to be known by any one person. The range is far too large to be realistically known or listed. However it does not require this. We do not need to have every person with OCD to individually include their own interpretation to be represented. We only need to acknowledge there are different interpretations and the actions vary with them.

Personally, I have mainly religious/ ruminations obsessive compulsive disorder. I do not repeatedly wash my hands or keep a spotless home. My compulsions are mainly praying, blinking and tapping. My processing although individual works the same way as those with OCD who repeatedly wash and clean. How our OCD comes out does not change where it comes from. The interpretation behind the action follows the same pattern:

  • Intrusive thought
  • (to)
  • * Interpretation
  • (to)
  • * Responsibility
  • (to)
  • * Safety behaviours

This is how OCD works for all with it. This key similarity is what we should base the image of obsessive compulsive disorder on instead of condensing it to a limited set of responses within a wide range.

Instead of seeing it purely as an action it should be seen as a process. A process simple enough to be absorbed and remembered by most. The key word in it being *responsibility.

Once OCD is seen in terms of responsibility rather than clean hands it is more understood. It links the action to the person and the person to the condition in one simple stroke. This does not require individual detail as it includes all actions and all types of obsessive compulsive disorder.

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