Obsessions and compulsions can be categorized by their symptoms.  Individuals with OCD will tend to have the majority of their symptoms fall into 1 or 2 categories, although it’s not uncommon for someone to experience symptoms from all categories.

Below is a description of each category type of OCD with sample triggers, obsessions and compulsions.  This is not a comprehensive list and does not include all possibilities.

Contamination

Triggers: Germs, dirt, dirty surfaces, door knobs, hand-shaking, soiled linen, virus/bacteria, bodily specimen.

Obsessions: “I will get sick, experience bodily harm or be in perpetual pain” (which may lead to death), “I will harm/make someone else sick” (which may lead to death), contaminated living/working space.

Compulsions: Excessive hand-washing, bathing, grooming, washing items/surfaces, avoidance, wearing gloves/masks, controlling bodily movements to avoid touching.

Checking & Repeating

Triggers: Electrical appliances, doors and other locking mechanisms, candles, receipts, phone numbers, conversations, data entry.

Obsessions: “The house will burn down because I left the stove on”, “I made a mistake”, “I will get robbed because I left the doors unlocked.”, “What if I said something that offended someone?”

Compulsions: Excessive checking of doors, locks, appliances, belongings, data entry, quality of work, etc, seeking ongoing reassurance from others that everything is “OK”, mentally replaying conversations over and over again.

Symmetry & Ordering

Triggers: Disorganization and/or cluttering of objects.  Non-symmetry.  Odd angle placement of objects.  Untidiness.

Obsessions: Can be magical in nature.  Sense of loss of control.  Non-specific.

Compulsions: Reorganizing objects.  Placing objects at perfects angles to achieve symmetry.

Scrupulosity

Triggers: Behaviors, situations or experiences that may be interpreted as immoral or “bad”.

Obsessions: “I have sinned”, questions personal morals and values, fear of suffering purgatory, will feel perpetually guilty, fear of thinking or doing something “bad” or against individual’s moral beliefs.

Compulsions: Reciting prayers, counting prayer beeds, religious rituals, praying, seeking forgiveness.

Homophobia & Sexuality

Triggers: Other individuals of same sex, homosexual content or situations (i.e. TV shows, movies, magazines, Gay Pride parades, etc.).

Obsessions: “What if I’m homosexual?”

Compulsions: Seeking reassurance of heterosexual orientation, avoidance of others or relationships, testing sexual attraction and/or sexual impulses with individuals of opposite sex.

Harm & Aggression

Triggers: People, places or situations. Non-specific.

Obsessions: “I hope that person dies”.  Random thoughts of harming someone. Excessive guilt.

Compulsions: Avoiding certain places, situations or people.  Seeking reassurance that the sufferer is not “bad” or immoral.  Over sense of responsibility to prevent harm happening to others.  Over compensating by performing acts of kindness.

Hit & Run

Triggers: Driving (especially at night).

Obsessions: “What if I hit someone or an animal and caused bodily harm or death?”

Compulsions: Re-drive route where obsession was triggered, excessive checking, seeking reassurance.

Pure Obsessional (Pure-O)

Triggers: Media or personal information about environmental hazards. Increased stress (as with most other obsessions). Non-specific.

Obsessions: Can include obsessions from other categories in this list (i.e. violent, sexual, etc.)

Compulsions: Physical compulsions not present.  May experience mental compulsions such as neutralizing thoughts or no compulsions at all.

Hoarding

Triggers: Shopping facilities, printed materials.

Obsessions: “What if I need this someday”.

Compulsions: Collecting or holding on to items that may not have any apparent value.  Avoiding disposal of waste products or garbage.  Impulsive shopping or acquisition of items (i.e. picking up a free newspaper or flyer).

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