What are some common OCD subtypes?
Harm OCD causes people to be deeply disturbed by the violent thoughts that just about everyone has experienced. While most people are able to shrug off these thoughts, those with Harm OCD can become completely overwhelmed by them.
- I could jump in front of the train right now
- I could stab my husband with this knife
- What if I drove into that person?
- What if I killed my nephew and I just can’t remember?
- Refusing to stand near train tracks
- Keeping all knives hidden away somewhere
- Repeatedly going back to check if you ran someone over
- Calling your sibling to check if your nephew is safe and sound
Sexual Orientation OCD (Homosexual OCD or HOCD) involves obsessions about one’s sexuality. It’s often called Homosexual OCD, but this is misleading. It can happen to people of any sexuality, about any other sexuality.
- I was attracted to that guy back there. This means I’m gay.
- Other people can detect that deep down I’m into women
- Was I really into her when we dated? Or am I more into guys?
- Looking at pictures of women to see if you’re attracted to them
- Asking people repeatedly if you seem straight to them
- Avoiding people of the same sex altogether to avoid confusion
Pedophilia OCD is especially prone to stigma because of how strong people’s feelings are about pedophiles. However, as with all types of OCD, these obsessions are not desires. In fact, people are so distressed by these thoughts because they don’t reflect what they really want.
- What if I have sexual thoughts about the kid I’m babysitting?
- I just had a sexual thought when I was around my cousin’s kid, am I attracted to them?
- What if I molested a kid and I just can’t remember?
- Looking online for stories of real pedophiles so you can find evidence you’re not one
- Staying away from kids altogether
- Repeatedly beating yourself up in your head for these thoughts
Relationship OCD leaves people completely unable to tolerate the uncertainty of intimate relationships, giving them obsessions about the “rightness” of their own relationship and the countless other possibilities that daily life brings.
- Is this the right person for me?
- Couldn’t there be someone better out there?
- Are we meant for one another?
- What if we’re not meant to be but we still end up stuck together?
- Taking relationship quizzes online
- Looking up other people on social media to see if their relationships seem better
- Remembering situations over and over: did we really have fun together on vacation that time?
“Just Right” OCD is a little different from these other subtypes, in that it’s difficult to identify a specific fear, or set of fears, underlying it. Instead, it’s usually more like a strong feeling that something just isn’t right when things aren’t a certain way. It’s one of the more caricatured forms of OCD, in TV shows, movies, and jokes.
- Something is just not right with this
- I need to start this over to make it perfect
- This just doesn’t feel right
- Performing any action over and over, e.g. closing doors
- Rearranging, reordering, organizing things repeatedly
- Changing wording many times in emails or notes
Contamination OCD is probably the most stereotyped form of OCD. People with this subtype are afraid of getting sick, or infecting someone they care about, after coming in contact with serious bacteria.
- Oh no, this time I’ve really gotten AIDS
- I just gave my sister’s baby a serious illness when I held him
- This whole place is full of bad bacteria, I can just tell
- Repeatedly washing hands, sanitizing things
- Always cleaning different sources around the house
- Avoiding being in public, doctor’s offices, being around kids
Pure-O, or Pure Obsessional OCD, is one of the murkier subtypes, and some experts say it doesn’t even exist. The idea is that people with Pure-O have obsessions without visible compulsions, but since they still have compulsions they’re not exactly “purely obsessional.” But whether or not studies back it, many people identify with Pure-O because they don’t have the more obvious compulsions listed in subtypes above. The obsessions can be about sex, sexuality, religion, harm, personal health, romance, and really anything else we discussed above.
- What if I’m actually not a good person?
- How do I know that life is even worth it?
- What if I go over there and push that guy off this bridge?
- If I don’t clean my mess up well enough someone will get slip and get seriously hurt because of me
- Making sure to spend time only with people who will tell you you’re a good person
- Always thinking through the “meaning of life” question
- Looking for signs in your mind that you would never push someone off a bridge
- Trying repeatedly to remember a situation because you haven’t done it correctly if you’ve missed a detail
There are plenty of other subtypes, but these common ones should provide a good idea of what lots of people with OCD struggle with on a daily basis. It’s not really worth working too hard to figure out exactly what someone’s subtype is, but it can be comforting to know there are others going through something similar.
In some cases, OCD symptoms can become so severe that people consider suicide. If you ever consider suicide, please call your local emergency number or go directly to a hospital. In the United States, you can also call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.