Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder where you have recurring intrusive thoughts that create a sensation of deep discomfort and lead to compulsions. Everybody experiences intrusive, unwanted thoughts during their lives, but if you have this condition, you tend to feel completely overwhelmed by these thoughts and react to them with repetitive behaviors or mental acts. According to the official medical definition, the obsessions and/or compulsions take up at least one hour per day and are so inhibiting they may interfere with your well-being and become all-consuming. You can find a full breakdown of the different elements that make up OCD in our article here.
OCD is often misrepresented as something that simply makes you into a very tidy or very clean person, or somebody who is very specific about certain rituals. However, the OCD spectrum is wide and varied, and there is no simple one-size-fits-all approach to it. It’s a disorder that tends to change so much from person to person that specialists categorize it as a “heterogeneous” disorder. So, although you may feel like one of the above examples applies to you, it is possible that you may also experience shades of other types of OCD.
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There are some symptoms, such as the presence of intrusive thoughts followed by compulsions, that tend to be present in most people’s experience of OCD.. But the way these symptoms manifest, such as the types of things your mind focuses on or the compulsive behaviors that result from it, can be very different from person to person. One individual can have intrusive thoughts about germs and engage in six hours per day of hand-washing. Another can have intrusive thoughts about harming others and engage in three hours of checking/reassurance seeking.
Although there’s a lot of discussion in the medical world about whether there are different set types, categories or subtypes of OCD — and whether it’s a good idea to categorize them in the first place — there are some clear patterns in how OCD may affect you. Some specialists might call them symptom dimensions. It could be helpful for you to be able to identify yourself with a category and to learn that some people feel very similar to how you do, but it isn’t particularly helpful to worry too much about what category you are in if you don’t feel like it’s clean-cut.
Here are some of the most commonly described subtypes of OCD, but there are many other variations of the psychological condition:
You can absolutely have two or more different types of OCD. Some people only have one subtype, but it is definitely common for people to have more than one.
Over time, the subtypes may change or stay the same. In some cases, there tends to be one specific type of OCD that presents itself throughout a person’s life, with various symptoms changing over time. In other cases, people manifest different subtypes at different points in their lives. For example, “just right” OCD as a child, contamination OCD as an adolescent, and harm OCD as an adult.
There’s no research to show that certain subtypes of OCD necessarily carry stronger or more disruptive symptoms. OCD symptoms usually begin gradually, and they can grow over time, also varying according to the stages of your life and situations. For example, if you’re very stressed, you’re more likely to experience worse effects from your OCD.
In general though, OCD is considered a lifelong psychological condition that can be treated and alleviated through treatment such as medication, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP). You can read all about obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment here.
If you feel you have one or more types of OCD then please know that effective and affordable ERP is available to you. NOCD has licensed therapists in all 50 states and now even offers services in the UK. Please schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation so NOCD can help you regain control of your life.
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