What Are the 5 Subtypes of OCD?

What Are the 5 Subtypes of OCD?

As with any other mental disorder, people struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are bound to experience the illness differently. In fact, when it comes to diagnosis, OCD faces such a broad definition that many people may find themselves fitting the bill.

Truth be told, there are subtypes of OCD that people are prone to struggle with. These subtypes aren’t as strong as having OCD itself but can cause interferences with day-to-day life.¹

The purpose of this blog is to teach you all about the 5 subtypes of OCD. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.

What Are the Symptoms?

For all the subtypes of OCD, the symptoms remain typically the same. These are divided into two categories: obsession and compulsion.²

Common obsession symptoms include:

  • Aggressive thoughts
  • Consistently repetitive thoughts
  • Mental images that cause paranoia
  • Necessity to make things symmetrical or perfectly ordered
  • Phobia of contamination or germs
  • Unwanted thoughts (especially, taboo thoughts)
  • Urges

Common compulsion symptoms include:

  • Constantly checking on something (such as constantly checking to see if the door is locked)
  • Intemperate cleaning and/or handwashing
  • Necessity to order or arrange things precisely

It’s important to remember that not everyone will experience the same symptoms. Listed above are simply the most common symptoms of OCD.

If you suffer from any of the above, you most likely struggle with one of the following subtypes of OCD:³

Contamination Obsession (Cleaning Compulsion)

Do you heavily worry about being contaminated? Do you find yourself constantly cleaning or washing due to this worry?

If so, you suffer from the symptom subtype of OCD known as contamination obsession (or cleaning compulsion). This subtype runs deep into the mind and actually inhibits your thought process.

In an example, you might be walking down a city street and need to hit a button for the crosswalk sign. You’ll immediately think of how contaminated that sign is and pull out some sanitizer (or run to the nearest bathroom to wash your hands). All for the sake of getting rid of that contaminated feeling.

Harm Obsession (Checking Compulsion)

Do you feel as though you’re always in a state of danger? Does this feeling constantly cause you to check to make sure you’re in danger or not?

People struggling with harm obsession (or checking compulsion) are prone to repeatedly check potentially dangerous situations to make sure the hazard is relieved.

In an example, you may be baking a sheet of cookies in your oven, well aware it’s going to take upwards of 20 to 30 minutes to finish. Though most people go off and do something else until they hear the timer go off, you find yourself repeatedly walking back to the oven to make sure everything’s okay.

You worry the oven may leak gas or somehow catch fire. You think by checking it consistently, you can avoid these potential dangers.

Some people struggling with this subtype of OCD may even believe that by simply thinking of a terrible event, it’s more prone to happen.


Do you find yourself collecting numerous items that have no value to anyone other than yourself? Do you find your living space becoming more and more claustrophobic as you go about this collection?

Hoarding is the most recent subtype of OCD to be recognized. People who struggle with this usually have numerous amounts of random objects (anything from old magazines to boxes of unused knick-knacks) barricading the walls of their home.

If you struggle with hoarding, you most likely have fear of losing all of these possessions. You may place an emotional attachment to them and hold the belief that they’ll have importance at some point or another.

The danger in this thinking is it can lead to other emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression.⁴

It’s important to note that some people who suffer from hoarding may not show any signs or symptoms of OCD. This is a disorder that can prevail independently.

Obsession Without Visual Compulsion

Do you suffer from intrusive thoughts you haven’t told anyone about? Have you thought of yourself in situations you would never dare actually follow through with?

You may suffer from obsession without visual compulsion. This subtype is categorized by an undesired obsession taking control of your consciousness, usually in the following forms:

  • Aggression
  • Religion
  • Sex

For example, you may sometimes unwillingly begin to think about murdering someone. If you let this thought roll out, you’ll begin to actually visualize how the scenario will go through. However, due to the anxiety you have for such thoughts, you don’t usually get to this point of visualization.

Instead, you have “mental rituals” for the sake of holding back these thoughts – such as forcing yourself to think about another topic, counting in your head, or even praying.

Many people who struggle with this subtype will avoid anything that may trigger these thoughts.

Symmetry Obsession (Ordering Compulsion)

When it comes to OCD, this is one of the most common symptom subtypes associated with the disorder. Just a quick Google Image search will show you numerous pictures of people arranging and rearranging random objects, making sure they look perfect.

With that, many people who suffer from OCD as a whole are usually struggling with symmetry obsession (or ordering compulsion). However, the signs symptoms categorized by this subtype go beyond fixing objects until they’re “just right”.

This subtype can enter the consciousness and get people trying to think “just right”.

For example, let’s say someone is completing a task where their OCD comes in very prevalent. In order to make things perfect, they’ll think of a sentence or random arrangement of words over and over again until they get the task “just right”. This is almost a mental exercise to make sure the physical outcome is accomplished perfectly.

People who struggle with this subtype usually believe this kind of arrangement will protect them in ways. Sometimes from something dangerous, sometimes from negative opinions of others.

Your Questions

Still have questions concerning the subtypes of OCD?

We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any personal or professional knowledge on the topic, we’d also love to hear from you.

We try to reply to each legitimate comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources

¹ Dialogues in clinical neuroscience: Symptom dimensions and subtypes of obsessive-compulsive disorder: a developmental perspective

² NIMH: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

³ HHS Public Access: Symptom Subtype and Quality of Life in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

⁴ HHS Public Access: Comorbidity in Hoarding Disorder

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