Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by obsessions, which are recurring and unwanted thoughts, urges, and mental images, and compulsions, which are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession.
People with OCD often experience significant distress as a result of their obsessions and compulsions, and the condition can interfere with their daily functioning and severely impair their quality of life.
OCD can manifest in different ways but often seem to follow specific themes as outlined below:
Contamination OCD involves an obsessive fear of physical (by dirt and germs) or mental contamination (by morally unacceptable thoughts). As a result, they may have compulsions to repeatedly wash their hands, clean surfaces or objects, shower multiple times a day, or avoid certain topics of conversation (in the case of mental contamination).
They may also avoid touching certain objects or surfaces or engage in behaviors to avoid coming into contact with potentially contaminated substances.
Checking OCD involves an obsessive fear of harm or danger, leading to compulsions to repeatedly check certain things, such as whether the stove is turned off correctly or the door is locked properly. People with this form of OCD may also feel the need to regularly check their bodies for signs of illness.
Ordering and arranging OCD is characterized by an obsession with symmetry, order, and organization. Individuals with this type of OCD have a deep fear of disorder or chaos and tend to arrange objects or items in a specific order or pattern, such as aligning all the cans in the pantry with the labels facing the same direction. They often experience severe distress if things are not arranged the “right” way.
Relationship OCD involves an obsessive preoccupation with romantic relationships or a fear of being alone. People with this form of OCD may have compulsions to seek reassurance from their partner or engage in unhealthy behaviors such as clinginess due to fear of being alone.
Aggressive/Intrusive Thoughts OCD
People with this form of OCD may experience intrusive thoughts about violent, aggressive, or taboo topics even though they have no intention to act on these thoughts. This type of OCD can cause a great deal of distress and guilt, leading to compulsions such as avoiding certain topics or people.
Doubt and Incompleteness OCD
Doubt and incompleteness OCD is characterized by an obsession with perfectionism and an excessive need for certainty. People with this type of OCD may have compulsions to double-check every tiny bit of their work or constantly seek reassurance that they didn’t make a mistake. This means it takes them excessively long periods to complete even simple tasks because they may have to redo them several times.
This form of OCD revolves around an obsessive fear of sinning or committing acts that go against particular spiritual or moral beliefs or codes of conduct. People with this type of OCD may experience intense guilt and engage in compulsions such as praying multiple times a day to ward off the guilt associated with perceived “sins.”
The Bottom Line
OCD is a complex mental illness that can affect different people in different ways as shown above. However, the above list is not exhaustive, and it’s possible to experience more than one form of OCD at once. It is also possible for the focus of an individual’s obsessions and compulsions to change over time.
If you think you may have OCD, it is important to seek professional help to get an accurate diagnosis and an individualized treatment plan. With the right care and support, it is possible to manage your symptoms and lead a happy and productive life.