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Dec 18

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

What You Probably Don’t Know About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Exploring the 6 Different Types of OCD

We are all quite familiar with characters featured in various movies and television shows that display stereotypical OCD symptoms.  For many people, the only exposure to obsessive-compulsive behavior might be Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, Leonardo DiCaprio’s depiction of Howard Hughes in The Aviator, or Bill Murray’s quirky character in What About Bob?  On television we had super neatniks Monica on Friends and Felix Unger on the Odd Couple.  As a result of these various OCD depictions viewers may acquire a composite view of what the disorder is and how it manifests itself.

In reality, OCD has several different subtypes, each with their own list of features and behavioral traits.  Having a more comprehensive understanding of this debilitating mental health disorder can provide useful clues to explain how it may be manifesting in yourself or a loved one.  Once the exact type of OCD is identified through various assessments, treatment to help alleviate symptoms and discomfort can ensue.

About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD affects over 2 million adults in the U.S., however in about 35% of cases the OCD first emerges in childhood between ages 6-13, and is often undiagnosed.  OCD is a chronic and long-term mental health disorder within the anxiety spectrum.   OCD generally causes the afflicted individual to experience uncontrollable and reoccurring thoughts and behaviors they repeat or experience over and over.  These symptoms can become so severe that the individual makes compensations for the disturbing and uncontrollable thoughts and actions.  This may involve isolating behaviors, avoiding public events or any situation that could trigger the OCD behaviors, as well as using alcohol or drugs to offset the anxiety they experience.

6 Different Types of OCD

OCD doesn’t really adapt itself well to fitting into nicely defined categories.  In fact, the different types of OCD often overlap.  Generally, however, the psychiatric community recognizes six distinct types of OCD.  These include:

  1. Involves repeatedly performing “checking” actions, such as checking to see that the stove is off, checking to see a door is locked, or repeatedly turning of a light.
  2. Involves scrupulous hygiene practices due to a hyper fear of bacteria or germs. Many avoid contact with other people, public places, doorknobs, or the outdoors.
  3. Mental contamination. Involves compulsive washing of the body after experiencing an emotionally painful event, such as being ridiculed, bullied, or rejected.
  4. Involves the inability to discard worthless objects, forming an attachment to them and filling the house with old magazines, junk mail, old bills or statements, containers, even decaying food or human waste.
  5. Endlessly replaying a thought loop and obsessing over topics that have no real importance.  The thoughts are not harmful or objectionable, but time-wasting ruminations about meaningless topics.
  6. Intrusive thoughts. Involves disturbing and involuntary thoughts concerning intense topics such as same sex attraction, overanalyzing a partner’s actions and with an obsessive need for control, religious rituals or scrupulosity, violent thoughts or fantasies, and being obsesses with symmetry and order.

Treatment for OCD

There are special assessment tools available to the psychotherapist or psychiatrist to help determine the type of OCD that is presenting, and that information will help to tailor a treatment plan.  In addition, it will be important to determine is there is a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression, an eating disorder, or social phobia, for example.

In most cases, OCD is treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication.  Some of the useful psychotherapies for treating OCD include cognitive behavioral therapy, habit reversal therapy, and exposure and response prevention.  Medications prescribed for OCD may include fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, or sertraline.  A skilled therapist can help teach the client to manage the OCD symptoms and guide the client toward a more fulfilling life.

PeoplePsych Can Help Treat Your OCD Symptoms

PeoplePsych therapists provide therapy for individuals silently struggling with OCD.  OCD symptoms, while complex and sometimes difficult to manage, can be improved with therapeutic interventions.  Contact our Clinical Coordinator to get started.