Types of OCD / OCD Subtypes

Although many people, and indeed our popular culture, assume that OCD entails being preoccupied by fears of germs or an excessive need for cleanliness, OCD can adopt an incredible array of themes (or what is clinically referred to as “subtypes”).

One commonality to all presentations of OCD is that the individual is consumed by fears that they often recognize as excessive, contrary to their true feelings, beliefs, or values, and always are focused on something that is incredibly important to the person.

Irrespective of one’s particular OCD theme or subtype, suffering from OCD renders the individual completely consumed by distressing and anxiety provoking thoughts, fears, images, or unwanted impulses. These thoughts are persistent, can occur in response to a specific external trigger or cue, or can occur unprovoked or “out of the blue.” Over time, as the individual engages in compulsive behaviors in an effort to drive away, suppress, or otherwise negate these thoughts and the fear and anxiety they cause, these obsessions become overwhelming and all-consuming and can strip an individual of their sense of identity and quality of life. These constant obsessive thoughts and the compulsive behaviors that accompany them are known as OCD.

What are the Different Types of OCD?

A common question that people tend to have is whether or not there are different types of OCD. Everyone has their own specific symptoms of OCD which vary from person to person with no sufferer’s symptoms exactly like another. Despite this variability, are common subtypes of OCD, which describe the particular form and content that a person’s OCD assumes.

In considering subtypes of OCD, it is important to remember that an individual may suffer from one primary subtype or may experience elements of many different subtypes. Additionally, for some people their symptoms may be fairly stable over time but for others new symptoms can emerge somewhat suddenly or old fears and obsessions can return with little understanding of what has prompted their resurgence.

OCD symptoms generally fall into loosely defined categories, although there are unique features that can impact people differently even within the same subtype. Below are general categories of OCD symptoms and how they may present, although individuals with OCD may find that their symptoms are not perfectly captured within a general category. It is important to remember that OCD is best characterized by its cycle of obsession/anxiety/compulsion/relief/obsession, rather than by the particular form or content area that it assumes.



    What are Common Obsessional Themes of OCD?


    This subtype of OCD is characterized by extreme discomfort with fears of contamination. Contamination fears can focus on germs, body parts, bodily fluids or substances, dirt, chemicals, or other toxins. Some people with contamination OCD can fear becoming contaminated by other people’s experiences, emotions, or traits. Fears of this nature will generally lead the individual to engage in laborious and ritualistic efforts to cleanse themselves and their environment in order to rid themselves of the feared contaminant, or to avoid people, places, objects, or activities associated with their fears in an effort to eliminate the chances of coming into contact with the feared contaminant.

    Harm and Sexual Obsessions

    For individuals experiencing this subtype of OCD, obsessive and intense thoughts about potential harm to themselves or other people are intense, disabling, and cause incredible feelings of shame, fear, and anxiety, and can also be focused on distressing sexual themes. Individuals suffering from this form of OCD may fear that they could harm or kill others, cause something terrible to happen through negligence, such as a house fire, run someone over with their car or otherwise cause a terrible accident, sexually harm or assault another person, or could kill or harm themselves. People who suffer from Harm or Sexual OCD will often seek reassurance from friends or family members about their potential to cause harm to others, mentally review their actions to ensure that nothing terrible has happened, check to ensure that they have turned off appliances or locked doors, engage in other checking behaviors such as watching the news for evidence that their fears are true, will avoid people, places, or objects that could cause harm, and will stop engaging in activities in which they fear they could harm someone, such as driving or cooking or spending time with children or family members.

    Sexual Orientation and Relationship Obsessions

    OCD can assume the form of fears related to one’s sexuality and whether the individual is gay, straight, or otherwise has a sexual orientation that is contrary to what they have always believed or known to be true. Other individuals may experience obsessions related to their relationship and whether it is the right relationship for them, is healthy and fulfilling, or if they are truly attracted to their partner. People suffering from these forms of OCD will often compulsively and repetitively seek information from the internet or books to help them answer these questions, seek reassurance from others, check their emotional and physical reactions to other people or to their partner to monitor or assess their feelings or level of attraction, or will avoid people, places, or activities that prompt these fears.

    Religious and Scrupulosity Obsessions

    This subtype of OCD is related to unwanted obsessions around religious or moral fears and can occur even in people who would not ordinarily consider themselves to be religious. Individuals suffering from scrupulosity obsessions may fear that they have sinned (or will sin) or otherwise offend God or the tenets of their religion and are therefore at risk of damnation or other terrible consequences now or in the afterlife. Common compulsions often experienced for those with this subtype of OCD include repetitive or ritualistic prayer, seeking reassurance from family members or religious leaders such as pastors, priests, imams, or rabbis, compulsively reading (or avoiding) holy scriptures, or compulsive attendance at (or complete avoidance of) churches, mosques, synagogues, or other places of worship. Additionally, some individuals suffer from existential obsessional themes, in which they are fearful of, and preoccupied by the meaning of life or the nature of existence, and engage in frantic efforts to find answers to and feelings of certainty about these questions.

    Symmetry/Just Right OCD

    People with this subtype of OCD feel a very strong need to arrange items or engage in specific movements until they are perfect or feel just right. In some cases, this obsessive need to move in a certain way or to organize objects and spaces may be accompanied by “magical thinking,” in which case these efforts are executed as a way to prevent something bad from happening. People with this subtype of OCD will often find themselves repeating actions, movements, or behaviors or compulsively rearranging items over and over again in order to attain a sense of perfection or a feeling of being “just right,” and may find it hard to leave their home or transition to desired or necessary activities due to the degree of time and energy that their compulsions consume.

    Signs and Symptoms of OCD Can Look Like

    In many cases, a lot of the symptoms of OCD can be seen in those with any type of OCD. In this section, you will get a closer look at some of the symptoms of the various subtypes to help you see if you suffer from any subtype of OCD.


    Symptoms of this subtype include:

    • Obsessive concerns about getting sicks or germs.
    • Persistent thoughts about feeling unclean or dirty, either physically or mentally.
    • Constant fears about toxic substances, blood, viruses, and various other types of contamination.
    • Avoiding any potential sources for contamination.
    • Compulsions to get rid of any items that you perceive as dirty, even if they aren’t dirty
    • Compulsions to clean or wash any contaminated items.
    • Specific washing and cleaning rituals, such as cleaning a surface a specific number of times.


    • Need for items to be aligned in a specific manner.
    • Requiring symmetry or organization of your items.
    • Need symmetry in your actions, such as if you scratch one hand you need to scratch the other.
    • Compulsion to arrange items until they are perfect.
    • Feeling distressed or incomplete if things aren’t exactly how they should be.
    • Counting rituals, meaning that you need to count to a number a specific number of times.
    • Have organization rituals.

    Take the Types of OCD Test

    OCD is more common than you think, with nearly 2.3% of people suffering from this condition. This condition is something that can truly interfere with every aspect of your life, reducing the quality of life that you experience. An issue is that many people are embarrassed or ashamed of the thought of having OCD, which makes them hesitant to get the help that they really need.

    It’s normal to look at the symptoms and be concerned that this is a condition that you may be suffering from. This can make you even more afraid of going to a doctor. But, the good news is that you are able to take online tests to see if you have OCD, allowing you take the first step in getting the treatment that you need.


    If you suffer from OCD, this can impact your mental health and quality of life. By getting the treatment that you need to get better, you are going to be able to better control these thoughts that are consuming you and get back to living life. By taking the OCD test, you can learn more about if you have OCD so that you can seek out the treatment that you need.