In today’s competitive world, a calm, healthy life becomes difficult for everyone to lead. Life leaves little to no room in a person’s life for him to sit down and breathe, developing several types of mental health conditions.
Such a condition is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which could be developed over time or inherited.
This condition causes unwanted obsessions and compulsive behavior in one’s daily life. If you suspect your actions to be symptoms of the said condition, this article is the proper eye-opener.
Today we will be discussing the types of OCD and its various concerning symptoms. Hopefully, towards the end of this article, you will be enlightened enough to take better care of yourself, the one you deserve.
📌 What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, long-lasting disorder where a person has uncontrollable and recurring thoughts, called obsessions, accompanied by behaviors, called compulsions, that they feel the need to repeat repeatedly. Simply saying, a person with OCD is doubtful and cannot tolerate uncertainty.
They need everything to be done orderly and symmetrically. They even have aggressive thoughts about inflicting pain on themselves or others. Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, sexual or religious subjects, and anxiety disorders, are some signs one might observe in a person with the condition.
All these obsessional fears, activities, and compulsive behavior interfere with a person’s life on a daily and causes significant distress. One may try to ignore those intrusive thoughts, but it becomes more distressful. Ultimately, it eats them up, and they must submit to those urges. These repetitive behaviors are what you can call a cycle of OCD.
OCD mainly centers around different types of themes that are fears related. For instance, one may fear contamination by germs. For this obsession, one’s compulsion is to wash hands frequently until they are chapped and sore. Interestingly, this is a type of OCD called contamination OCD.
You need not feel shy if you have OCD; however, you should seek help and a treatment plan.
📌 OCD Symptoms You Should Look Out For
Obsessive-compulsive disorder usually comprises both obsessions and compulsions. But it is also possible for one to have either obsession symptoms or compulsion symptoms.
One may not realize their obsession or compulsion is unreasonable or excessive. However, they still take up a lot of time and interfere with their daily routine and social or professional life.
Obsessions of OCD include repeated, persistent and unwanted thoughts, some urges or images that are disturbing or intrusive and can cause distress or even anxiety. One might try to ignore them or perform a ritualistic behavior called compulsive behavior.
Following are some of the signs or symptoms of the same:
- You may fear being contaminated by touching objects that others have touched.
- You may question or doubt yourself repeatedly if you’ve locked the door or turned off the stove.
- You may even experience stress seeing objects arranged messily.
- You can have disturbing images of driving your car into a big crowd of people.
- Experiencing unpleasant sexual images is also observed.
- Avoid situations that can trigger one’s obsessions, such as shaking hands.
- Unpleasant and intrusive thoughts about shouting obscenities or acting inappropriately in public.
OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that one feels the necessity to perform. These behaviors or mental acts aim to reduce anxiety disorders related to one’s obsessions or prevent something bad from happening. But, sadly, performing rituals as such doesn’t bring any pleasure; it could only offer temporary relief from the anxiety.
One may make up rules or rituals to control the anxiety you feel when you have obsessive thoughts. These compulsions are sometimes excessive and often do not relate to the problem they aim to fix.
Following are some signs and symptoms that one shows in response to dealing with the obsessive thought(s):
- Excessive hand-washing until they become sore and raw.
- You may count in an unusual pattern.
- You could have a prayer, word, or phrase that you keep repeating.
- You arrange canned products to face the same way.
- Check doors to see if they are locked and stovetops to see if they are off.
📌 What Are the Causes of OCD?
OCD does need a clinical diagnosis, but you should also look up your doubts. A little self-care doesn’t hurt anyone!
What causes OCD?
Frankly, there is no solid scientific explanation for what causes OCD in people. A few of the main theories given by the scientists include:
The biological factor of OCD includes changes in one’s body’s natural chemistry or brain functions.
That’s right, one’s brain chemistry also plays a major role. Some research suggested that in certain parts of the brain, impaired functions or problems transmitting a few chemicals of the brain were detected. Serotonin and norepinephrine, to name a few, are some brain chemicals that could contribute to OCD.
OCD can even have a genetic component; however, those specific genes are yet to be identified.
According to a few studies, people with first-degree relatives who have OCD are far more likely to develop the disorder themselves.
A child learns several things growing up with parents. Obsessive and compulsive behavior can be learned from watching those family members or gradually learning over time.
Environmental factors can also play a massive role in developing the condition. Some people with OCD reported that stressful life events had occurred before their symptoms started flaring.
It is possible that some events that caused trauma, abuse, or other such distressful conditions, can play a part in the development of OCD and other such mental health conditions.
Another environmental factor linked with OCD is Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders (PANDAS). PANDAS is associated with Streptococcal Infections. A child is diagnosed with OCD or tic disorder, or both suddenly appear after a strep infection, viz., strep throat or scarlet fever.
(Read more about PANDAS here.)
📌 Types Of OCD or OCD Subtypes
Technically speaking, there aren’t any types of OCD. But there are common symptom categories that are described as “types.”
A person with OCD could potentially have any obsessive thoughts or compulsive behavior, but the OCD subtypes are mostly seen as the following:
1. Aggressive Thoughts or Harm OCD
A very common type of obsession is a fear of inflicting pain on others, violently lashing out, or having violent and aggressive images flash in front of you that wouldn’t go away. So, to keep these thoughts from taking action, one might use what’s known as checking rituals.
For instance, you may believe you accidentally hit someone with your car. You can even feel so strongly about it that you will be forced to drive back to the spot where you thought the accident occurred to prove that nothing happened. Sometimes, you can do this repeatedly until you’re sure.
2. Cleaning or Contamination OCD
This is probably the most basic form of OCD to develop in someone. People who have contamination OCD tend to focus on intense feelings of discomfort that is a result of contact with contamination or uncleanliness. The compulsive reaction of this obsession is to wash hands excessively to relieve some of that feeling of distress.
For example, you may touch a light switch and convince yourself that you have been contaminated. You may fear from this point on that you will contaminate someone else, which could lead to a repetitive behavior of frequently washing your hands to try and cleanse yourself.
3. Mental Contamination OCD
Emotional or mental contamination OCD is another type of contamination OCD. This type is not uncommon, but it is talked about less, perhaps because it is less “acceptable” and maybe even harder for those without OCD to comprehend. But it is, indeed, real.
This OCD involves fearing that certain places or even people are contaminated somehow, and therefore, they avoid them at all costs. The person’s OCD could be related to a negative experience with the person he wants to avoid contact with.
Sometimes it could be so bad that, before you know it, the sufferer’s world has shrunk with just the name of the ‘contaminated’ person; he’s unable to breathe the same air as the person in question.
4. Order or Counting Compulsions OCD
The order, symmetry, and counting compulsions OCD gives birth to an intense urge to rearrange things until they are set just right- or, at least, exactly how they think they should be. In some cases, it could even look like a need to constantly rearrange the socks in their drawer, which are to be organized by color type.
This type of OCD could even make you say phrases or words or count in your head over and over until you feel that something has been arranged perfectly.
This urge can sometimes attempt to keep away bad luck or danger. These people may even feel a sense of safety saying these phrases; they could think that repeating those words wouldn’t let someone die or that they won’t leave them.
5. Hoarding OCD
Good news first, hoarding disorder or hoarding OCD is now recognized as its diagnosis in the DSM-5. When someone hoards, they start collecting items that generally don’t hold much value.
They can collect magazines, rocks, games, container jars, and clothing- a person hoarding these items may keep so many of them that their homes eventually become virtually unpleasant and unlivable as it is overfilled with clutter.
Hoarding is common with hoarding because of obsessive thoughts about not having something one might need. This OCD subtype has a higher rate of underlying mental health conditions like depression and anxiety disorder(s) than others.
It is also important to note that hoarding OCD is different from compulsive hoarding, and it can occur independently without a distinct OCD diagnosis.
6. Sexual orientation OCD
Sexual orientation OCD (SO-OCD) is a subtype of OCD characterized by intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that cover a person’s orientation. It has been referred to as homosexual OCD (H-OCD). However, the term is increasingly discouraged as it lacks sensitivity.
People with SO-OCD have intrusive thoughts and urges around denial or confusion regarding their true sexual orientation. A person with this OCD subtype may experience fears around being perceived as having a certain orientation, such as being gay or straight. They fear that they are in denial of their “true” orientation.
For example, questions may arise in one if they are really what they think their orientation is. Are they attracted to same-sex by any chance? They would look at pictures of women or men for at least an hour to ensure they were attracted to them. They would ask people repeatedly if they seemed straight to them. It could get so bad that they even start avoiding people of the same sex altogether.
7. Relationship OCD
Relationship OCD (also referred to as R-OCD) is a type of Obsessive-compulsive disorder where people experience intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors related to their romantic partner.
This subtype creates repetitive behaviors and thoughts centered around doubts or fears about the romantic relationship. The person with this condition can experience uncertainties about whether their partner loves them or the relationship will last.
These thoughts then lead to certain behaviors designed to create safety around seeking reassurance. This pattern creates a lot of stress for the person experiencing OCD symptoms, but it also puts a concerning amount of stress on the relationship itself.
If you have OCD, you must know that your symptoms affect you and can get in the way of establishing and maintaining romantic relationships. Many people with OCD are single, and those who are in one have reported having a significant amount of relationship distress.
8. Morality, Sin, and Religion OCD
In the case of religious OCD (also called scrupulosity), the person has obsessions based on religious beliefs or religion or around those beliefs that concern morality. People experiencing this OCD have obsessive religious doubts and fears, unwanted blasphemous thoughts about religious figures, and compulsive religious rituals.
People suffering from religious OCD have strong beliefs and fear punishment from a divine being, a deity. Even people who are not religious can suffer from scrupulous because they may worry about them being morally compromised or unintentionally offending others.
9. Doubt and Incompleteness OCD
OCD can even cause recurring thoughts that one didn’t do something correctly or completely. An example of this type of OCD would be someone who doubts if they have closed the door when leaving the house. The obsessive thought usually triggers compulsive checking behaviors, i.e., going back to that door multiple times to see and check if the door is locked.
10. Magical Thinking OCD
People with this subtype of OCD usually engage in magical thinking, i.e., they believe if they don’t do a certain behavior, really unrelated events will occur.
For example, needing to check the phone at a specific time or something might happen to a loved one.
📌 OCD Treatment Plan and Diagnosis
Treating OCD is very important. But first, you need a proper, professional diagnosis. Following are the steps to help diagnose obsessive-compulsive disorder:
- Psychological Diagnosis: This involves talking to the patient and discussing their thoughts, feelings, symptoms, and behavior patterns to tell if they have obsessive or compulsive behaviors that interfere with their daily life. Sometimes, with your permission, they could talk to your friends or family.
- Physical Exam: This could be done to try and rule out other problems causing all your symptoms and check for other related disorders or complications.
- Diagnostic Criteria for OCD: The doctor could use criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Sadly, treating OCD can’t result in a complete cure. However, the symptoms of it can surely be brought under control, so they don’t interfere with your daily life. Depending on the severity of OCD obsessions and compulsions, some people could require long-term, ongoing, or more intensive treatment.
There are two main types of treatments for OCD, and often, treatment is more effective with a combination of these two:
A type of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is effective for many people with OCD. Exposure and response prevention (ERP therapy) is a component of CBT that involves you gradually being exposed to a feared object or obsession, viz., dirt, and letting you learn to conquer your fears and resist the urge to resort to your compulsive rituals.
ERP therapy takes a lot of effort and practice, but in the end, you may enjoy a better quality of life once you learn to manage those obsessions and compulsions.
Certain psychiatric medications can help to control the obsessions and compulsions of OCD. Most commonly, antidepressants are tried first.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved antidepressants to treat OCD, including the following:
- Clomipramine (Anafranil) is used for adults and children 10 years and older.
- Fluoxetine (Prozac) is for adults and children 7 years and older.
- Fluvoxamine is for adults and children who are 8 years and older.
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) is only for adults.
- Sertraline (Zoloft) is for adults and children 6 years and older.
However, your doctor can even prescribe you other antidepressants and psychiatric medications.
📌 What To Consider When Taking the Medication(s)
- The doctor aims to lower the symptoms with the lowest possible dosage. Trying several different medications to arrive at one that works well for you is not uncommon. Your doctor could even recommend more than one medication to help your symptoms effectively. It could take weeks and even months after you have started the medicine to work and notice an improvement. Just be patient.
- It is a known fact that all psychiatric medications have side effects. Make sure you talk to your doctor about taking care of your health or any other possible side effect. Also, let your doctor know if you experience troubling side effects.
- Most antidepressants are generally safe; however, the FDA requires all antidepressants to come with a black box warning as they are likely to increase suicidal thoughts in the first few weeks of taking them. If those thoughts occur, immediately contact your doctor or get emergency help.
- When you take antidepressants, tell your doctor about any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbs, or other supplements you’ve been taking. Some antidepressants can make these medicines less effective, which is simply hazardous to health.
- Antidepressants aren’t considered addictive, but sometimes one can get physically dependent. So abruptly stopping a treatment or missing several doses can cause discontinuation syndrome. Please don’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor about it first!
📌 Conditions Similar To OCD
Historically, OCD was once categorized as an anxiety disorder, but now it has a group of related conditions. Some other conditions listed in the OCD category are:
- Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD): BDD causes disturbing thoughts about one’s physical appearance, where they stand in front of the mirror, counting down their perceived defects or flaws. A person with this disorder spends a significant amount of time in front of the mirror, applying makeup, and sometimes even resorting to plastic surgery.
- Trichotillomania: Categorized by a compulsive urge to pull one’s hair out, trichotillomania is also called a hair-pulling disorder. It is a strong or an impossible urge and ranges from mild to severe, with significant hair loss and a major impact on social functioning.
- Excoriation Disorder: Similar to trichotillomania, extortion disorder is also called a skin-picking disorder, the urge to pick at one’s skin. It can cause severe skin damage and cause it to get dysfunctional socially. It may even lead to medical issues, viz., skin infections.
After all this, the reality is that there are lots of myths about the condition still. Watch the following video to get a clear idea: