OCD Subtypes

Sensorimotor/Somatic

Sensorimotor OCD is formerly known as Somatically Focused OCD and occurs when OCD sufferers become hyper-aware of bodily sensations including monitoring their breathing, swallowing, or heartbeat. Automatic bodily processes in the body become conscious and obsessional. The hyper-focusing on these sensations, checking, and monitoring can be extremely distressing for an OCD sufferer. Those suffering are often unable to stop thinking about these areas such as swallowing or breathing. They tend to try and distract themselves but end up feeling more distress and engaging in more compulsive behavior.

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Sexual Intrusive Thoughts OCD

In this OCD subtype, individuals experience unwanted sexual intrusive thoughts causing immense fear, anxiety, disgust, shame, and guilt. Sexual intrusive thoughts can be around rape, incest, pedophilia perversion, etc., These sexual obsessions are not pleasurable, and OCD sufferers badly want them to go away. Because of the nature of these thoughts’ individuals fear seeking treatment due to judgment or fear of being reported. At CalmOCD we welcome all with this subtype with no judgment and understand how much courage it takes to discuss these types of obsessions.

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Magical Thinking

Those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) feel a sense of responsibility to keep themselves and others “safe.” Individuals experiencing magical thinking perform compulsive behavior because their brain is communicating to them that it will prevent their fears from coming true. Even when OCD sufferers know their thoughts and behaviors are irrational it provides them with short-term relief and a false sense of safety. Magic and superstitions can also be an alternative way to feel safe and prevent “bad” things from occurring. Magical thinking is present when the individual believes their thoughts, ideas, wishes, or actions directly influence the events in the physical world. This belief is present despite there being no concrete evidence a thought or action will impact the real world. OCD sufferers with this subtype likely perform both mental and physical compulsions.

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Relationship OCD

Those experiencing Relationship OCD, or rOCD, experience fears and doubts about one’s relationship, typically of an intimate or romantic nature. People with rOCD may experience intrusive thoughts, fears, and anxiety about whether their partner is right for them, whether they are attracted to their partner, or their partner is attracted to them, and intense doubt regarding whether they need to end their relationship.

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Scrupulosity

Scrupulosity, or Religious OCD, can present in a variety of ways. Individuals can experience intrusive thoughts about sacred religious figures, believe they are sinful, or have violated the tenets of their religion. People with Religious OCD hold themselves to strict religious standards which can result in more harmful behaviors like self-punishment. They also experience a great amount of shame and fear they are not good enough.

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Homosexual OCD (hOCD)

Homosexual OCD (hOCD) causes someone to doubt their own sexual orientation leaving them questioning whether they are attracted to the same sex. People who have always identified as heterosexual fear their identity has changed or will in the future. This subtype creates lots of anxiety as the person starts to ruminate about their entire life trying to find answers to whether they are in fact attracted to the same gender.

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Health Concern OCD

Those suffering with Health Concern OCD, have obsessional thoughts around developing illness and disease. Even when the person knows there is a small likelihood, or when the fears are irrational and exaggerated the drive to do compulsions is still strong. When these individuals feel body sensations their brains will provide them with the “worst case scenario” which will then lead them to perform compulsions based on their fear response.

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Contamination OCD

Contamination OCD is what society often thinks of when they hear about obsessive - compulsive disorder. This type of OCD can lead a person to have fears around being contaminated, which then causes their brains to develop compulsive behaviors to cope with the anxiety.

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Checking OCD

Checking OCD is one of the most common subtypes of OCD and one we see often at CalmOCD. Those struggling with Checking OCD experience intrusive thoughts, fears, or concerns (obsessions) causing them extreme doubt and uncertainty that items are not in safe place, lights or appliances were left on, doors were not closed, emails or text messages were written with errors, etc. OCD sufferers then feel the need to perform compulsive behaviors to check and make sure everything is okay and no harm will occur.

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Harm OCD

Harm OCD is a common subtype of OCD where the individual fears harming themselves or someone else. The person often experiences intrusive thoughts and images which elicit an intensive anxiety response. These thoughts are unwanted, and the OCD sufferer does anything they can to eliminate these taboo thoughts. Often, the target for these thoughts is someone close to the individual such as a significant other or their child. Some individuals fear they will accidentally harm others by not being careful enough in their day-to-day actions. While some may fear they are horrible people and could be capable of caring out a violent act on another.

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Emetophobia

Emetophobia can appear as a presentation of OCD and one we see often at CalmOCD. Those suffering with emetophobia have an immense fear of vomiting. These fears can be unique depending on the person; however, mostly all do compulsive behaviors to reduce their anxiety. If lots of compulsions are performed this subtype can become very severe where people are eating a limited diet, no longer attending work or school, or even leaving the home. Sometimes these individuals are triggered by a certain event around vomiting while others are not able to identify any reason this has become a trigger. In OCD, there is often no significant reason the brain latches on and chooses a certain fear which we see in those suffering from emetophobia.

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Postpartum and Perinatal OCD

Postpartum OCD occurs directly after childbirth while Perinatal OCD occurs while the individual is pregnant. Research indicates women who are pregnant or recently gave birth have an increased risk of developing OCD symptoms. Women who already have OCD may experience an increase in symptoms during this period. This subtype tends to occur somewhat rapidly for women which increases the urge to do compulsive behavior. Compulsions such as avoiding giving their baby a bath, being alone with their baby, holding their baby, etc., often occur. Obsessions tend to center around fears the baby will get hurt in someway or contaminated. Approximately 1-2% of pregnant or postpartum women experience one of these subtypes. Some fathers can also experience these symptoms because they too have anxiety about taking care of a new infant. Research indicates there is a link between Postpartum OCD and postpartum depression; however, the specifics are still unclear. With postpartum depression negative thoughts occur which can develop into fear-based obsessions. The OCD symptoms can also create depressive symptoms.

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Just Right OCD/Perfectionism

Just Right OCD is a subtype with intrusive thoughts and compulsive themes centered around organization, perfection, symmetry, exactness, and how something feels. These OCD sufferers feel an intense need to make things “just right.” This may be centered around parts of their body, breathing a certain way, arranging items in a distinct way, having words and sentences sound a certain way, walking evenly or doing an action a certain number of times until it feels right. If the person does not complete their compulsive behaviors, it feels unsettling and as if something is not correct.

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False Memory OCD

False memory OCD is a subtype of OCD where the individual experiences intrusive thoughts making them doubt a past event. These fears typically surround doubts they did something wrong. The fears feel very real, and the OCD sufferer feels compelled to participate in compulsions in search of relief. Individuals with this subtype perform compulsions to gain certainty around the memory. People experience guilt and shame around these memories because most of the time the fears surround topics such as stealing or harm to others.

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Existential OCD

Existential OCD is often called ‘philosophical OCD.’ This subtype of OCD focuses on distressing obsessions with existential themes causing OCD sufferers to chase answers to questions that do not have definite answers or resolutions. Content around the meaning of life, spirituality, ones’ purpose, life, and death are common. These individuals can be very rigid and spend lots of time looking for concrete answers to life’s complex questions. Their OCD brain finds it challenging to accept not knowing the answers and moving forward in life despite these uncertainties. This subtype of OCD can affect one’s mood because it is centered around the persons existence.

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Emotional Contamination

Emotional contamination is a subtype in which the OCD sufferer fears their triggers (people, places, things) will somehow contaminate or harm them. They may not necessarily perceive contamination in the physical sense but more of an emotional and mental contamination. They may fear taking on someone else’s negative personality traits for example. These individuals also fear having the things they love ‘contaminated’ by their fears and triggers. They may label certain places as ‘bad luck’ and dangerous and avoid interacting with these places. This subtype of OCD also aligns with magical thinking subtype and superstitious type behaviors. OCD sufferers believe random events do not happen and instead things are meant to happen, and signs hold intentional meanings.

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Pure O

Pure O stands for ‘purely obsessional.’ This subtype of OCD consists of a person experiencing distressing intrusive thoughts without external compulsions such as checking, washing, or counting out loud. The difference in this subtype is most or all the compulsions are inward (mental). Often their loved ones are not aware of their suffering because they are not physically seeing them do compulsive behaviors.

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