Obsessive compulsive disorder presents itself in many forms, and certainly goes far beyond the common misconception that OCD is merely a little hand washing or checking light switches. Although those are OCD compulsions for some individuals, such perceptions fail to acknowledge the many negative impacts that an individual with OCD may experience along with their compulsions, such as distressing thoughts. Though there are a myriad of different types of OCD, it has been traditionally considered that a person’s OCD will fall into one of these five main categories, with themes often overlapping between categories.

The top 5 categories for OCD:

  • Checking
  • Contamination / Mental Contamination
  • Symmetry and ordering
  • Ruminations / Intrusive Thoughts
  • Hoarding


People with Checking OCD fear that something bad may happen to themselves or others and therefore are compelled to check things ritualistically or obsessively. The need to repeatedly check is the compulsion out of risk prevention for an accident such as a fire, a leak, accident, or other type of harm. This obsessive concern causes anxiety, which they respond to with checking rituals to gain certainty that something terrible has not or will not happen.

Contamination / Mental Contamination

Contamination OCD is a common type of OCD in which a person obsesses over contracting an illness or spreading germs. These intrusive thoughts may cause an individual serious anxiety and distress, which they try to relieve with compulsive behavior, like excessive washing or avoiding crowded spaces.

Symmetry / Ordering

People with Symmetry OCD are often diagnosed at an earlier age than those experiencing other types of OCD. This kind of OCD is characterized by intense anxiety over asymmetry. Obsessions that occur for those with Symmetry OCD include being concerned that something bad will happen if an object or movement is uneven or imbalanced. Some examples of these triggers include pillows unevenly placed on a bed, an uneven number of books on a bookcase, or even walking without the same amount of pressure on each foot.


Rumination OCD can cause a variety of intrusive thoughts that are different for each person.

Some common ruminations or obsessive thoughts include: obsessive thoughts regarding cleanliness, fear of harming someone, disturbing thoughts of inappropriate sexual activities, intense thoughts of constant perfection, or philosophical or existential obsessions


Hoarding OCD is an OCD subtype characterized by ongoing intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors around acquiring possessions and having difficulty discarding them. People with hoarding OCD may experience frequent intrusive thoughts around either acquiring/keeping possessions (e.g., “I need to have this item. I won’t be able to handle my emotions if I don’t get it”) throwing them away (e.g., “If I get rid of this shirt I got as a birthday gift, something terrible might happen to the person who gave it to me”).

If you or someone you know is suffering from OCD it can be a huge hinderance to daily life, but there is hope and help available. Seek professional help from a therapist who may recommend effective treatment options for you or a loved one.

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Pharmasite Research in Pikesville, MD is enrolling individuals with OCD for a clinical study. Learn more to see if you qualify!