Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic anxiety disorder characterized by two overarching symptoms: Repetitive, intrusive, and distressing thoughts (obsessions) and ritualistic, uncontrollable behavior (compulsions)
Interestingly, OCD patients can have different types of obsessions and compulsions, giving rise to the multiple subtypes of OCD. Typically, people cite four broad categories of OCD: contamination and washing, checking, symmetry, and taboo thoughts.
In reality, though, OCD is a very case-specific disorder and can manifest in infinite ways. Moreover, it’s extremely common to experience different subtypes of OCD simultaneously.
Some other types of OCD include relationships, rumination, religion, perinatal, false memory, and magical thinking OCD. This list goes on.
Hence, some people might suffer from OCD their entire lives without knowing it since their symptoms might not fall into any of the more obvious categories of OCD.
To rectify that, let’s look into the lesser-known yet extremely common types of OCD.
1. Relationship OCD
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Relationship OCD involves obsessions and compulsions revolving around your romantic relationships. Hence, your mind will constantly be racing with doubts, fears, and worries about the soundness of their relationship.
Your relationship-centered obsessions could include:
- Doubting your partner’s intentions
- Questioning your own intentions
- Focusing too much on your partner’s flaws
- Worrying that anything you say or do upsets your partner
- Questioning your and your partner’s compatibility
As a result of these obsessions, you might engage in behavior that will ultimately be counterproductive to your relationship. For example, you’ll constantly seek reassurance from your partner that everything is okay. When that’s not enough, you will turn to friends, family, and even coworkers for their two cents about your relationship.
On your worst days, you might even be unfaithful to your partner or break up with them. But even then, your obsessions will only worsen, making you doubt whether you were unfair or overreacted.
Hence, the cycle will continue.
2. Pure OCD
Pure OCD, also known as Pure-O, is “a form of OCD in which a person experiences obsessive, unwanted thoughts without visible compulsions or rituals.” The emphasis here is on the word “visible.” People with pure OCD don’t have any obvious compulsive behaviors because all their compulsions are mental.
Hence, pure OCD is no different from other types of OCD, nor is it any less valid or distressing.
That said, pure OCD is not a recognized medical term under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Instead, physicians use it to describe the group of OCD subtypes involving mental compulsions instead of more obvious and tangible ones. These include pedophilia OCD, harm OCD, sexual orientation obsessions OCD, and religious OCD.
The compulsions arising from these thoughts can include mental checking, seeking reassurance from others and yourself, checking your body for signs of harm, neutralizing bad thoughts with good thoughts, compulsive prayer, and so on.
3. Hoarding OCD
Hoarding OCD is when a person actively avoids throwing away things they no longer need, resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter.
While they’re related, hoarding OCD is different from hoarding disorder. The latter is when people hold on to possessions because they believe they are valuable. On the other hand, a person with hoarding OCD recognizes that a thing is no longer valuable but still can’t bring themselves to throw it away.
Broadly speaking, hoarding OCD falls into three categories:
- Deprivation hoarding is when people hold on to something believing they might need it in the future. Hence, they “think ahead” to avoid deprivation in the future.
- Preventing harm hoarding is when a person believes throwing away their trash will cause some harm or damage. For example, a glass bottle may shatter and harm the garbage collector. Or an animal might consume rotting food and die.
- Emotional hoarding is driven by emotional or sentimental value behind possessions, such as childhood toys or gifts.
4. Sensorimotor or somatic OCD
Our bodies perform countless life-sustaining involuntary actions, such as breathing, digestion, pumping blood, and blinking. Yet most of the time, we are unconscious of these actions, trusting our body to do its own thing.
However, that’s not the case for people with sensorimotor or somatic OCD.
Instead, the afflicted become hyper-aware of their voluntary and involuntary bodily functions. Moreover, it’s not just their own bodily functions they obsess over, but others too.
Some common examples of sensorimotor/ somatic obsessions and compulsions include:
- Blinking: the sufferer pays extra attention to blinking. They might try to blink a certain number of times, count how many times other people blink, and even try not to blink at all.
- Breathing: the sufferer might count their breaths, try to control their breathing, or blast music to drown out the sound of breathing.
- Swallowing: the sufferer will become hyper-aware of the feeling and sound of swallowing. They might try to stop swallowing “too much” or even avoid eating and drinking around other people.
5. Religious OCD
Religious OCD, also known as scrupulosity OCD, is among the oldest subtypes of OCD, arguably as old as the first religion itself. As a kind of pure OCD, religious OCD involves obsessions and compulsions revolving around a set of religious beliefs. But what differentiates religious OCD and regular religious beliefs and customs?
People with religious OCD will constantly grapple with recurring doubts about their morality, involuntary blasphemous thinking, and mental compulsions to correct their “sinful” behavior.
For example, let’s say a blasphemous or immoral thought pops into your head against your will. A religious person without OCD will be able to separate themselves from this intrusive thought and move on. But it’s a different story if you have religious OCD.
The harder you try to shake it off, the more this intrusive thought pops up. It might even become progressively worse. Brimming with guilt, you start to pray excessively to atone for your sinful or impure thoughts.
Sometimes, you might even pray for hours. Yet, the thoughts will keep rearing their heads, and the guilt will consume you.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a complex disease, particularly because it can manifest differently for different people. Any two people with OCD might grapple with entirely unique obsessions and compulsions, leading to different subtypes of OCD.
These subtypes include but are not limited to: relationship OCD, pure OCD, hoarding OCD, sensorimotor/ somatic OCD, and religious OCD.
However, the main takeaway is that all types of OCD involve obsessions and compulsions, whether they are obvious or not. Regardless of the subject matter of your obsessions and compulsions, your condition is still valid, and you should seek help.