Around 2% or more than half a million Australians currently have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is debilitating and overwhelming and is the fourth most common psychiatric disorder in the world after phobias, substance abuse, and major depression.
“OCD is a serious mental disorder that can incapacitate people, causing fear, worry, anxiety, stress, and obsessions that are extremely difficult to live with. In its more chronic forms, it leaves some people utterly at the mercy of their fears, affording them a very low quality of life.” Peter Hayton, The Banyans Health and Wellness Clinical Director, advises. People living with OCD have a higher risk of having other mental illnesses, such as depression and bipolar disorder.
What are the Different Types of OCD?
There are currently four core dimensions or types of OCD, each with a range of sub-types with varying symptoms, often occurring in more than one type.
So, what are the 4 types of OCD? Here’s how they’re currently defined:
- Contamination OCD
- Symmetry and Perfection OCD
- Harm OCD
- Taboo or Immoral Thoughts OCD
Below, we explore each type of OCD in more detail.
Related: What is OCD?
What are the 4 Types of OCD? A Closer Look
1. Contamination OCD
Compulsive contamination behaviours are those most associated with all types of OCD. People with compulsive hand washing perform excessive and repetitive washing of their hands to relieve the severe distress associated with an obsessive fear of contamination and germs. This can lead to hand dermatitis due to excessive washing and exposure to water. Behaviours associated with contamination compulsion can also include compulsively cleaning both inside and outside a house, clothing, living areas, furniture, and bedding.
Mental contamination is similar to contamination OCD but is a cognitive belief in uncleanliness of self. It is understood that it can be brought on through physiological injury caused by teasing or bullying and results in people spending hours washing incessantly. The emotional damage, or contamination, caused creates these physical compulsions.
2. Symmetry and Perfection OCD
Symmetry and perfection are other behaviours most often associated with OCD. It presents as an obsession with order and symmetry, and these people with OCD may have superstitions about specific numbers, colours, or arrangements. Counting, tapping and repeating words are all compulsive behaviours used to relieve the anxiety brought on by the need to order and arrange. “People with OCD can have a desperate need for exactness,” explains Peter. “Everything in their lives needs to be symmetrical and ordered, such as an equal number of people sitting at a dinner table, or children’s toys need to be displayed in order of height, or pencils arranged by colour hues.”
Some OCD compulsions include believing that if everything isn’t exact or ‘perfect’, something terrible will happen, or there will be a punishment. This leads to compulsive checking that things are in the ‘correct’ order, the right arrangement, or organised perfectly to avoid retribution. This anxiety caused by fear leads to behaviour such as repetitively turning off the stove and checking locks and switches. This behaviour can also include repeatedly checking on loved ones to ensure they are safe.
Hoarding (sometimes referred to as Hoarding Disorder)
Hoarding is excessively saving items that others may view as useless. The persistent difficulty in parting with possessions leads to the clutter that interrupts life. Hoarding causes significant distress to those dealing with it personally and loved ones living alongside the OCD and disrupts day-to-day functioning. Many people with hoarding OCD report a background of emotional deprivation and experiences of sudden traumatic loss. Some people experience the need to hoard items they believe will cause harm to others, such as broken items (like lightbulbs and glass), or even excrement, in the belief their hoarding will keep others safe. Treating teams that assist with transitioning the more extreme environments combined with therapy for the person living with this disorder are essential to consider.
3. Harm OCD
Harm OCD is characterised by violent, disturbing thoughts of harming someone and the responses that a person uses to cope with these thoughts. These symptoms of OCD include the fear that either they or others will be hurt, a fear of losing control, and aggressive, intrusive thoughts. These thoughts can become frequent enough to become invasive and take over the person’s life. “Participating in compulsions and rituals helps decrease anxiety regarding the thought,” says Peter. “People will feel less fearful once the ritual is complete, but then the disturbing thought returns, causing cycles of doubt, fear, and compulsive behaviour.”
4. Taboo OCD
Taboo or immoral thought OCD involves sexual, aggressive, and religious or moral obsessions and thoughts. These obsessions involve excessively taboo thoughts that are hard to share, even with emotionally close people. People with this dimension of OCD believe they are the only ones with these unwanted, intrusive thoughts. The hostile thoughts can relate to aggressively harming themselves or others physically or sexually and can also include praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear. This type of OCD can result in an immense amount of shame and fear, as the very nature of the obsession is deemed immoral or unmentionable.
The OCD Types: Recovery is Possible
It’s essential to remember that help and treatment for OCD are available, and things can improve with a multidisciplinary approach to medication and specific types of psychotherapy.
At The Banyans, treatment for OCD is grounded in a multidisciplinary methodology, personalised for each guest. The combination of medical support, psychiatric care, psychological and emotional counselling, nutritional support and physical exercise assists individuals in relieving symptoms while learning effective coping strategies. The Banyans offer residential programs and day programs designed to treat various types of OCD.
For further support and information about an OCD recovery treatment program at The Banyans, call our expert team 24/7 on 1300 226 926 or make an enquiry below.