OCD Types – A comprehensive site describing types of obsessions and compulsions

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 Fears

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.

Causing Harm by Accident

Triggers:  Electrical appliances, doors and other locking mechanisms, candles, receipts, phone numbers, conversations, data entry.  Driving(especially at night)

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?”   “What if I hit someone or an animal while driving and caused harm or death?”

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.   Driving back to “check” no one was harmed, seeking reassurance.

Symmetry & Exactness

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

Obsessions:  Can be magical in nature.  A sense of loss of control.  Non-specific.  Needing things to feel or be a certain way – to feel “right”.

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


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 beads, religious rituals, praying, seeking forgiveness.

Sexual Orientation

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

Obsessions:   Worry about becoming or being gay, engaging in same-sex sexual behavior, and being ridiculed by others for being gay.  This type of OCD is often characterized by excessive doubt.

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

Sexual Obsessions

Obsessions:  Unwanted sexual thoughts, often involving children, family members, animals, violence, or even religious figures.  People with sexual obsessions find their thoughts repulsive, immoral and do not wish to act them out.  The stigma associated with sexual thoughts may cause individuals to avoid reporting their obsessions.  It is important to know how common these thoughts are.

Compulsions:  Avoidance of people and situations.   Reassurance seeking.   Attempts to suppress the thoughts.

Causing Harm to others on Purpose

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

Obsessions:  Random thoughts of harming someone.   Can include thoughts of harming oneself – not to be confused with suicidal ideation.

“People with these thoughts typically have no history of violence, nor do they act on their urges or impulses. However, people with OCD often appraise their thoughts as dangerous and overly important, so when a random thought involving harm enters the person’s mind, the OCD sufferer begins to worry. They often believe that having such a thought is as bad as performing the action, thus they devote a large amount of their mental effort to attempts to suppress the thoughts. Conversely, this only serves to increase anxiety and perpetuate symptoms. Below are some common fears.”  www.ocdtypes.com

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

Pure Obsessional (Pure-O)

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

Compulsions:  Physical compulsions not present.  Compulsions are Mental – not visible.

“Although obsessions without overt rituals are now considered relatively common among people with OCD, this OCD symptom has generally been understudied and until recently has been considered resistant to treatment.

Beliefs regarding the importance of thoughts and the need to control them are common in people with this type of OCD.  The meanings associated with unwanted thoughts may be related to views of self, i.e. “Having a bad thought means I am a bad person.”

People with mental compulsions are usually coping with thoughts that are unacceptable or taboo in nature (sexual, harming, religious thoughts), or worries about illness and health.  Rather than perform an overt ritual, such people will engage in these covert rituals and mental neutralizing.

This might include repeating silent prayers, replacing “bad” thoughts with “good” thoughts, or erasing unpleasant mental images.  They might also engage in excessive prayer or confession, perform some form of mental checking (e.g., reviewing one’s behaviors), and/or engage in excessive self-reassurance. These mental compulsions result in the same temporary relief from anxiety, and are thus equivalent to more overt rituals.

People with OCD tend to be introspective and may spend a great deal of time and effort ruminating about the origins of their disorder. In fact, this sort of rumination can also be a mental compulsion.” www.ocdtypes.com


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).


For more information visit www.ocdtypes.com.