Exploring the Different Types of OCD: What You Need to Know

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder? How many types of OCD are there? Learn about the symptoms and treatment of OCD.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder. A person with OCD gets caught up in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.1 Understanding how many types of OCD there are will help you understand this disorder. This article will cover the symptoms of OCD, how many types of OCD there are, and treatment options available in the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill triangle (including Apex, Wake Forest, and Clayton).

OCD can interfere with daily life and cause significant distress. If a person with OCD tries to ignore their obsessive thoughts it increases their distress and anxiety.2 Before we learn how many types of OCD there are, we need to understand obsessions and compulsions.
How Many Types Of OCD


OCD obsessions are persistent, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts, urges, or images that cause distress and anxiety. To reduce the distress caused by obsessions, a person with OCD might engage in compulsive behaviors or rituals. When we look at how many types of OCD there are, the different types can depend on the obsessions.3
The common themes of OCD obsessions are:4
  • Fear of contamination (by people or the environment)
  • Unwanted or disturbing sexual thoughts or images
  • Religious thoughts or fears
  • Worries about oneself or others getting hurt
  • An extreme concern and need for order or symmetry
  • Fear of losing or discarding something
  • Extreme worry that something is not complete


Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels they have to complete to ease their anxiety about their obsessions. This relief is temporary. Obsessions are likely to return, which triggers compulsions. Compulsions are often time-consuming and interrupt daily life. 

Examples of compulsive behaviors and rituals are:

  • Excessive cleaning and washing
  • Repeated checking
  • Counting
  • Arranging or ordering things in a specific way
  • Constantly seeking reassurance
  • Repeating certain words or prayers while doing an unrelated task

Risk Factors for OCD

We don’t know why some people experience OCD. Some experts believe it is caused by abnormal brain circuitry. Others think there could be a genetic component. No specific genes related to OCD have been identified. Another theory is that obsessive fears and compulsive behaviors may be learned by watching close family members.
Some risk factors have been identified, including:5
  • Family history of a parent or sibling with OCD
  • Physical structure and chemistry of the brain
  • Trauma
  • History of childhood abuse
  • Environmental factors such as a childhood streptococcal infection

How Many Types of OCD Are There?

OCD symptoms vary from person to person. According to some research, certain types of OCD may be easier to treat than others.6
If you search “how many types of OCD are there,” you may find different answers. There could be 4 to 13 types of OCD. We will look at 5 main types of OCD:7
  1. Hoarding
  2. Contamination and cleaning
  3. Symmetry and ordering
  4. Harm obsessions and checking
  5. Obsessions without visible compulsions
The combinations of obsessions with the most common compulsive behaviors determine how many types of OCD there are. It is more common to only have one type of OCD, but some people may have more than one type.


Symptoms of OCD-related hoarding include:8
  • Worrying that getting rid of something could bring harm to someone
  • Needing to collect items in order to protect oneself or someone else
  • Having compulsions to buy more than one of the same item, even if multiples are not needed
  • Feeling incomplete if an item is lost
A hoarding disorder and hoarding because of OCD should not be confused. The main difference is that, generally, people with hoarding OCD do not want to collect item but feel compelled to because of their obsessive thoughts.9

Contamination Obsessions With Cleaning Compulsions

This type of OCD involves fear that things might be dirty or contaminated. When searching for “how many types of OCD are there,” you may find this type is the most common. It is often the most stereotyped. Up to 46% of people who are diagnosed with OCD experience this type.10
The symptoms of contamination/cleaning OCD are:
  • Worry about germs or feeling dirty
  • Fear about exposure to contamination sources, such as blood or viruses
  • Avoiding likely contamination sources
  • Cleaning or washing rituals

Symmetry Obsessions With Ordering Compulsions

The symptoms for symmetry/ordering OCD include:
  • Needing to align items in a certain way
  • Needing things to have symmetry and organization
  • Needing to perform actions in a symmetrical way
  • Engaging in counting rituals
  • Believing that something bad will happen if they don’t arrange items in a certain way

Harm Obsessions With Checking Compulsions

Individuals with this type of OCD have intense thoughts about themself or others being harmed. This often results in checking behaviors to make sure that no harm will be done. They might repeatedly check that the stove is turned off, for example.

Obsessions Without Visible Compulsions

These types of obsessions are related to taboo, forbidden, or religious thoughts. Symptoms may include:
  • Having intrusive thoughts about sexual or violent themes and feeling guilt, shame, or distress because of these thoughts
  • Worrying that they might act on these thoughts or be a bad person
  • Having obsessions about religious ideas that feel wrong
  • Feeling responsible for bad things that happen
  • Having compulsions to hide objects that could be used as a weapon
  • Seeking constant reassurance that they’re not a bad person and will not act on these thoughts
  • Extreme avoidance of anything considered a trigger
  • Using mental rituals like prayer or reciting particular words to relieve anxiety

OCD Treatment Options

Regardless of how many types of OCD there are, there are treatment options that can be used to address each one. Treatment options for OCD include:

  • Exposure and response prevention (ERP): This is one of the most effective types of therapy for OCD. ERP involves exposing individuals to their triggers and instructing them. not to engage in their compulsions. At the same time, they use relaxation techniques to help manage anxiety.
  • Medication: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically used to treat depression. But at a higher dose they are effective at treating OCD.11
  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): DBS is typically used to treat conditions like Parkinson’s and essential tremor, but it has been found to improve OCD symptoms. DBS is a neurosurgical procedure that involves implanting electrodes on certain areas of the brain. These electrodes produce electrical signals that help to regulate abnormal signals in the brain.  TMS uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells to activate areas in the brain responsible for mental health conditions.12
How Many Types Of OCD

Find OCD Treatment in North Carolina

Now that you understand how many types of OCD there are, it’s time for the next step. If you or a loved one are concerned about OCD symptoms, Advaita Integrated Medicine (Advaita Integrated Medicine) can help you get the treatment you need. Our providers can help you understand how many types of OCD there are, what treatment options are available, and how to manage symptoms.

We provide OCD treatment services for the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area, including Wake Forest, Apex, and Clayton. We also have programs for treating substance abuse and general mental health disorders. At Advaita Integrated Medicine, we help individuals from all walks of life.

OCD Treatment Opportunities

We offer a variety of treatment services for adults and adolescents, including:
  • Psychiatry
  • Therapy/counseling
  • Medication management
  • Primary care

For more information about how Advaita Integrated Medicine can help provide information on how many types of OCD there are and the treatment options available, contact us today at 919.893.4465 or https://aimwellbeing.com/contact/.

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Reach out to Advaita Integrated Medicine today and let us guide you toward a full and rewarding life uninhibited by mental health or substance use disorder challenges. We are here to support you every step of the way.
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