Get Help Today

Click Here for more information or to request a communication by phone, email or text.

Or Call


We are here for you 24/7
Fast, confidential response

Licensing & Accreditation

Brookhaven Retreat is Accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations and is licensed by the State of Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.


beauty in life worth living
beauty in life worth living

We are a private pay treatment center and do not accept any type of insurance. Costs associated with care are the responsibility of the client.

Different Types of OCD

Friday, 30 March 2018 07:03  by Andrea W.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects millions of people. One in 40 adults and one in 100 children in the United States have some type of OCD.

What Is OCD and What Does It Mean to Have OCD?

OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is defined as obsessions and compulsions that take up at least an hour a day and cause the sufferer great distress.

1 in 40 and 1 in 100 children have OCD

Many people associate OCD with obsessive hand washing. Although this may be a symptom of OCD, there are other types of OCD that affect people in different ways. For example, while one person with OCD may wash their hands at length or clean their kitchen repeatedly, another may suffer from involuntary thoughts and guilt resulting from their thoughts.

Thankfully, OCD is treatable — and you can enjoy a life free of stressful obsessions with the right diagnosis and treatment.

What Are the Different Types of OCD?

There are several different types of known OCD behavior. OCD can have a major impact on your life, relationships and responsibilities — more than many people realize. The first step in treatment is to figure out which type of OCD you have, and a diagnosis should always be made by a professional.

Understanding the different types of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the related symptoms may help you determine whether or not you need to seek help. Being picky about how clean your home is or liking your work space organized a certain way may not mean that you have OCD.

However, if you feel compelled to clean the same room in your home for hours, and if these compulsions cause you tons of stress and affect your obligations, you likely have OCD. In general, you may have OCD if your obsessions and compulsions:

  • Take up a large amount of time
  • Take up a large amount of time
  • Cause you distress and emotional suffering

If your obsessive-compulsive behavior greatly impacts your life, your OCD will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Contamination or mental contamination:
  • Symmetry
  • Checking
  • Hoarding
  • Intrusive thoughts or rumination

OCD is not always easy to diagnose. It can be hard to measure how much stress an obsession causes someone. The key lies in understanding if a thought or behavior disturbs you to the point where your quality of life is affected. If you feel held back by obsessive-compulsive thoughts or behaviors, it is probably time to seek help.

Time to seek help

1. Contamination

Contamination OCD involves the compulsion to wash or clean something in response to the obsessive fear that something is contaminated and will cause death or illness. For example, you may obsessively worry that your kitchen countertop had been contaminated by raw meat. As a result, you might scrub the counter for hours in fear you will miss a contaminated spot. You might imagine a loved one getting sick from coming into contact with a dirty countertop, driving your compulsion to over-clean.

Contamination OCD

If this sounds like something you would do, consider some of the other fears you may have with contamination OCD:

  • Germs in public places
  • Coming into contact with chemicals
  • Contracting germs from strangers
  • Contracting germs from strangers
  • Visiting a hospital or waiting in a doctor's office
  • Eating in a restaurant
  • Being in a crowd

To cope with obsessive fears, someone who suffers from contamination OCD might compulsively:

  • Throw things away
  • Sanitize or clean things
  • Excessively wash their hands
  • Change clothes frequently
  • Create off-limits "clean areas"
  • Avoid public places or touching certain objects
  • Excessively brush teeth

If you wash your hands a lot when you're in public, you may not have OCD. Sufferers of contamination OCD will wash their hands up to 50 times or more each day. Some people will wash even if they are not dirty but have been made to feel dirty. This is known as mental contamination.

Sufferers of mental contamination will act as if they had touched a contaminated object, when in fact they are reacting to a trigger. For example, a person may insult them and "pollute" them with words. There is no dirt involved, but they will compulsively shower or wash their hands in hopes of feeling clean again.

2. Symmetry

Symmetry OCD involves having things in place and organized at all times. If something is not just right or even in amount, the OCD sufferer will experience great discomfort. Sometimes, those with symmetry obsessions believe that disorganization or imbalance will cause something bad to happen. This is sometimes referred to as “magical thinking.”

Symmetry OCD

Symptoms of symmetry obsession include but are not limited to:

  • Making sure everything is always in its place
  • Making sure everything is always in its place
  • Making sure clothing is hanging straight on hangers
  • Arranging canned food items and stacking them with the labels all facing forward
  • Having a perfectly clean home free of stains, spots or smudges at all times
  • Making sure pictures in the home are hanging straight
  • Making sure everything is in even numbers or actions are done evenly

Those obsessed with symmetry may spend so much time putting things in place, counting objects or actions, and organizing belongings that they are often late for work, appointments or social gatherings. Many times, they will not invite friends or family to their home to avoid the stress and discomfort of objects getting out of place.

3. Checking

Someone with OCD may have such an obsessive and intense fear that something terrible will happen to them, their home or a loved one, that they compulsively check for safety.

Checking OCD

For example, a person who suffers from checking OCD might spend hours checking:

  • • Oven knobs, appliances and light switches or lamps in fear their home will burn down
  • Doors and windows in fear of someone breaking in
  • Sink faucets in fear their home will flood
  • Car door locks in fear their car will get stolen
  • Their memory to make sure a thought they had did not actually occur
  • Letters or emails before sending, worrying they had written something they will regret
  • Lines in a book in fear of missing something important
  • Online information about illness or disease in fear they are sick
  • Calling or texting loved ones for fear something bad has happened to them
  • Wallet or purse in fear of losing something or not having something with them

It may be normal to extra-check the house doors or oven knobs before you leave home. However, people who suffer from OCD will check doors or knobs multiple times, sometimes for hours. OCD disrupts their lives and makes it difficult for them to get to work on time or engage in other activities.

4. Hoarding

Hoarding involves holding onto items that are no longer useful to avoid the extreme discomfort of discarding an item. Hoarders may keep objects in fear the object will cause someone harm once discarded. Hoarders may also attach great emotional significance to an item or they may have a deep fear of deprivation that makes it impossible for them to throw something away.

Hoarding OCD

Symptoms of hoarding usually include:

  • Inability to discard items no matter how old, useless or worn they are
  • Intense anxiety when attempting to throw items away
  • Trouble organizing items
  • Unable to choose which items to keep or discard
  • Unable to decide where to put things
  • Stress caused by the embarrassment of hoarding
  • Feeling overwhelmed by possessions
  • Suspicious of others discarding or touching items
  • Commonly collecting and hoarding items such as newspapers, magazines, clothing, food, boxes or plastic bags
  • Commonly collecting and hoarding items such as newspapers, magazines, clothing, food, boxes or plastic bags

The result of hoarding can be devastating for the family and the sufferer. Someone who suffers from hoarding OCD may not invite anyone to their home out of embarrassment or because there is not enough space. Without social contact, a hoarder may feel isolated and depressed in addition to dealing with OCD-related anxiety.

For those who are married or have other individuals in their household, hoarding can cause great strain on relationships at home. Objects can fill up too much space, making others uncomfortable and causing worry about health hazards.

5. Intrusive Thoughts

OCD may not always show in one's actions. Some people suffer from OCD internally by experiencing intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts occur involuntarily and often disturb or horrify the thinker. A person with intrusive thoughts may believe something is wrong with them for having such thoughts and they might develop a fear that they will act out their thoughts. Fear causes them to avoid social situations or other situations related to their intrusive thoughts.

Intrusive thoughts

Intrusive thoughts can be about anything, but they often involve the fear of harming a family member or other loved one. Intrusive thoughts commonly fall into one of the following categories:

  • Relationships: Obsessively doubting and analyzing a relationship and constantly needing reassurance from a romantic partner. Intrusive thoughts may also involve constantly questioning one's sexuality.
  • Bodily: Might be hyper-aware of bodily sensations such as breathing, blinking or swallowing saliva.
  • Sexual: Fear of sexually harming someone or of having an inappropriate attraction. For example, a sufferer might have the intrusive thought of sexual attraction to a family member.
  • Magical thinking: Believing bad thoughts will cause actual harm. Someone who experiences magical thinking might repeat certain words in their mind to "repel" bad things from happening. They may also believe in bad luck, signs or other symbols.
  • Violent: Fear of compulsively harming a loved one, child, self or another innocent person. For example, they might experience the intrusive thought of jumping in front of a train and the terror that they will act on that impulse.

If any of these thoughts pop into your head, it does not mean you are abnormal or that you are going to commit a crime. A lot of people with intrusive thinking feel ashamed and guilty for having bad thoughts and they may avoid getting the help they need. They may also avoid family members or children for fear of harming them.

If you obsess over intrusive thoughts, a professional can help you uncover the causes of your thoughts and help you learn ways to cope with them when they arise. Thoughts are often fears in disguise and a professional can help you to identify and address these fears.

You may also ruminate over your thoughts, which may be another symptom of OCD. Ruminating means you repeatedly think about something without a solution. For example, you may have the thought that you hurt a family member. As a result, you might ask yourself what that means, what would happen if you acted on your thought and what is wrong you for having the thought. After you ask yourself questions without answering them, you start asking yourself the same questions again and again. This process can continue for hours or days. for many, it can be difficult to resist ruminating — and it takes practice to overcome — which is where a mental health professional can help.

If you believe that you may be suffering from any type of OCD, seek the help and diagnosis of a mental health professional.

What Causes OCD?

The exact cause of OCD is not known. However, certain risk factors may contribute to or trigger OCD in some individuals. Those are:

  • A family history of OCD: If any of your family members have OCD, you may have a higher risk of developing OCD yourself.
  • Stress: Experiencing a traumatic or highly stressful event may trigger intrusive thinking or obsessive thinking and ritualistic behavior.
  • Mental health disorder: If you suffer from depression, anxiety another mental health disorder or substance abuse, you may have a greater risk of OCD.

Triggers cause a person with OCD to experience OCD symptoms. Therefore, they will do whatever it takes to avoid triggers and the uncomfortable feelings presented by their OCD — even if that means avoiding someone or something that they love.

What Are Obsessive-Compulsive-Related Disorders?

Some disorders resemble the compulsion to act and the obsessive thinking associated with OCD. The following disorders often cause embarrassment for the sufferer, but they are also treatable, like OCD.

1. Hair Pulling – Trichotillomania (TTM)

Trichotillomania (TTM), also called hair-pulling, is the compulsion to pull out one's hair. People who suffer from TTM are embarrassed by their habit and do it in secret. They may pluck the hair out of their head, eyebrow, eyelashes, arms legs, face or other areas of the body with their fingers or tweezers. TTM may relieve stress and bring pleasure to those affected by this habit disorder. Sometimes, they are unaware of their actions. Either way, they find the urge hard to resist.

Trichotillomania - Hair pulling

2. Skin Pricking – Excoriation

Individuals who suffer from excoriation, or skin-picking, pick their skin until it bleeds or becomes damaged. Those who suffer from the skin-picking habit may feel anxious or the urge to pick so strongly that they are unable to resist, regardless of the damage that occurs. Most people pick the skin on their face, but this habit can be acted out anywhere on the body. Usually, after excoriation takes place, the person will experience feelings of depression or guilt.

Excoriation - Skin picking

Many people with excoriation disorder also suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. They may remove blemishes, moles or bug bites with their nails, tweezers or other sharp objects in hope of a clearer complexion. Sometimes, this habit leads to infection or scarring. A sufferer of this disorder may try to cover up the skin damage with makeup or they may avoid going out in public.

3. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is when a person is obsessed with a perceived flaw in their body. Someone who suffers from BDD strongly believes they are ugly or exaggerates an imperfection in their mind even if they look "normal" — or at least unremarkable — to someone else. In severe cases, a BDD sufferer will avoid leaving their house. Some individuals with BDD can recognize they are exaggerating, while others cannot.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Possible causes of BDD include low-self esteem or past experiences with bullying. Many sufferers also have other disorders like anxiety, depression or an eating disorder.

What Are the Treatment Options for OCD?

If you suffer from OCD or an OCD-related disorder, you may feel like nothing can help you. However, OCD can be managed — and it is possible to manage symptoms and live a life free of obsessive-compulsive behavior. The goal of treatment is to help you gain control of your thoughts, fears and urges through coping skills and possibly medication if the doctor thinks it necessary based on the individual case. The sooner you seek treatment, the better. The most effective forms of treatment include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people control their symptoms by changing negative thoughts and destructive behavior patterns. Unlike psychoanalysis, which focuses on deep wounds, CBT focus on solutions and behavior modification.

2. Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy

Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) is a form of CBT and involves facing fears. With this form of therapy, a mental health professional will help you to expose yourself to fear and then deny yourself the compulsion to react to the fear. They can do this in-person or by providing guidance for you to perform ERP therapy at home.

With ERP, a person is not asked to face their greatest fear right away. Instead, the person will list all of the things that cause them anxiety, from the weakest to the strongest. Then, they will gradually work their way up the list, starting with less extreme fears first. ERP is often done in conjunction with CBT.

3. Medication

A therapist or doctor may prescribe an antidepressant to help calm the symptoms of OCD. Common OCD medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). A doctor will determine if medication should be a part of a person’s treatment plan for OCD.

4. Individual and Group Therapy

Individual and group therapy both have their benefits. In an individual therapy session, the focus is on you. You may feel safer expressing your concerns, thoughts and feelings in an intimate setting versus a group setting. For this reason, you may be more motivated to stick to therapy appointments and you might be more honest about your issues, which will help a therapist decide on the best course of action.

However, group therapy is also worth considering, either in union with individual therapy or by itself. Some people may feel more comfortable in a group setting without the focus on them only. Group therapy may help you find your voice, but most importantly, show you that you are not alone with your OCD. With group therapy, you will have the opportunity to connect with others who struggle with similar symptoms and you can give each other strength, motivation and courage to make the journey towards happiness and wellbeing.

In addition to seeking professional help, there are also ways you can help yourself manage your OCD. These include:

  • Set healthy goals and stick to your goals
  • Continue work and social routines
  • Continue work and social routines
  • Follow your doctor’s directions
  • Take any prescribed medication as directed
  • Contact your doctor or therapist if symptoms worsen
  • Explore healthy forms of self-expression, such as art or other hobbies
  • Keep your appointments with your doctor or therapist, even if you feel they are no longer needed

Treatment may take some time before you start to improve but try not to lose hope or give up. Most good things in life take time and you deserve a happy, healthy life.

Brookhaven Retreat Can Help

If you have OCD, you may feel embarrassed or ashamed by your behavior. Just remember: a lot of people are affected by this disorder and there is treatment available to you.

Women may, especially, feel ashamed of the stigma attached to OCD because of the roles they are expected to fill. Women are often mothers, wives, working professionals and more, and juggle a variety of responsibilities at once, but that does not mean OCD should make them feel guilty. Brookhaven Retreat is a women-only mental health treatment center with caring and compassionate staff who understand what you are going through. If you think you may have OCD, take our self-evaluation test to find out. If you need somewhere to turn for help, do not hesitate to contact us today.

Last modified on Tuesday, 06 November 2018 15:38

Add comment