24 X 7 Helpline For Mental Health Emergencies
Understanding OCD: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Their Treatment

Understanding OCD: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Their Treatment

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that is driven by undesirable thoughts known as obsessions that compels repetitive behaviours, known as compulsions.

However, it varies from individual to individual in the way in which symptoms of OCD are experienced.

OCD forces your brain to get stuck on a particular task or a thought, and develop anxiety if the action or task is not repeated.

This unwanted repetition isn’t something you find pleasure from, and even though you know that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior are irrational, you are unable to resist it. 

What are Obsessions and Compulsions?

Obsessions are irrational thoughts or impulses that are repetitive in nature. Most of these thoughts are often disturbing and distract you, there may be a feeling of uneasiness or anxiety if these obsessions are not acted upon.

Types of OCD

In most cases, they are mostly accompanied by feelings of fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is “just right.” Obsessions are time-consuming and affect your ability to function.

There’s a fine line between worrying about something and someone and being obsessed. Thinking about the safety of your loved one, or wondering about whether you’ve locked the doors aren’t necessarily the symptoms of OCD.

It is only when these thoughts block out everything else and affect your ability to process other thoughts that it is classified as an obsession. These OCD intrusive thoughts are quite unlike general thought processes and hijack the mind to trigger a response.  

Some of the most common obsessions in OCD are:

  • Fear of contamination (through germs, diseases, etc.)
  • Fear of losing control of an impulse
  • Belief on superstitions related to lucky color, numbers, etc.
  • The constant fear of losing things

Compulsions, on the contrary, are repetitive behaviors you undertake to drive out the obsessions. However, in most cases, these compulsive behaviors end up causing anxiety within you as you find them time-consuming and demanding.

Though these acts are designed to relieve the stress brought on by an obsession, it’s not always the case. Individuals who suffer from these disorders do know that these actions make no sense, but they are tempted to still act on it to relieve their anxiety.

Similar to obsessions, not all repetitive actions are termed as compulsions, the context of the behaviour is important. 

Some of the most common Compulsions include:

  • Washing hands multiple times 
  • Constantly arranging things in a given order
  • Repeating a body movement (example includes tapping your foot)
  • Checking parts of your physical condition or body

Primary Factors/Causes that Trigger OCD

Even Though there’s no conclusive evidence on what exactly triggers OCD in an individual, most of the research conducted worldwide points towards two factors that might be the leading cause.

As per the research findings, OCD symptoms occur when there’s a disconnect between the front part of the brain (orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex) and the deeper parts of the brain (the thalamus, and striatum).

The miscommunication affects these different parts of the brain and they fail to respond normally to various chemicals like serotonin (a chemical used by nerves to communicate with each other), dopamine, glutamate among others.

Risk Factors associated with OCD-

Genetics tends to play a significant role in various types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Hence, a patient is likely to suffer OCD if a parent or blood relative suffers from the condition.

Some research findings also hold genetics as a responsible factor behind OCD. As per the studies, researchers believe that if OCD runs within your family, there are nearly 25 – 30% chances of you developing the condition. 

Few experts also believe that the symptoms shown in early childhood differ from the ones that we see during adulthood. As per them, the genes play a major role when OCD starts in childhood (40 – 60%), as compared to adulthood (25 -45%).

In some cases, even an illness or ordinary life stress can trigger the symptoms of OCD.

Other times, the symptoms are usually triggered by stress; the issues are caused due to school, work, personal relationships, or life-altering events. It’s also known that OCD co-occurs with other conditions like-

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Major depressive Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Eating disorders


How many types of OCD are there?

Based on the nature of the symptoms experienced OCD can be divided into different OCD subtypes. There are five main categories of OCD and numerous sub-types within each category.

  • Contamination
  • Ruminations
  • Intrusive Thoughts
  • Checking
  • Hoarding


Here an individual’s fear of contracting something is the obsession and he needs to wash and clean is the compulsion. Examples, Resorting to washing and cleaning excessively when using public toilets, shaking hands with others, touching doorknobs/handles, visiting hospitals, etc. (Fear of contracting germs).

Cleaning or washing is often undertaken multiple times throughout the day. It often is accompanied by rituals of repetitive washing of hand or body until the individual ‘feels clean’.


Here an individual often experiences prolonged thinking about any question or theme which leads to being mostly unproductive and undirected. Ruminations are often indulged and not objectionable. rather than resisted.

The themes experienced while ruminating are philosophical, religious, or metaphysical in nature. Like, life after death, origins of the universe, etc.

Rumination often ends up causing interferences with the individual’s daily routines that relate to work, personal relationships, etc.

Intrusive Thoughts

Here an individual experiences obsessional thoughts that are repetitive, and repugnant in nature. For example, thoughts of causing harm to others or loved ones. Intrusive thoughts often end up causing interferences with the individual’s daily living like work, relationships, etc.

intrusive thoughts ocd

The very idea of their ability to think such thoughts in the first place can be horrifying. However, these individuals are incapable of reality to act on the thoughts as they find them revolting and would go to great lengths to prevent them from happening.

Some categories of intrusive thoughts are;

  • Relationships– Here the individual obsessively doubts the sustainability and suitability of their relationship.
  • Sexual Thoughts – Here the individual obsessively thinks of sex, to the point of it crippling their social interactions.
  • Magical Thinking – Here the individual believes and is fearful that if they think of something bad, something bad would happen.
  • Religious Thinking – Here the individual often fixates on religion and religious matters.
  • Violent Thoughts – Here the individual obsessive fears of acting upon violent acts against loved ones or other people.

Intrusive thoughts often end up causing interferences with the individual’s daily living like work, relationships, etc.


Here an individual’s fear of harm, loss, or death is the obsession and need to check is known as a compulsion.

Checking of gas or electric stove knobs, (fear of causing burn down), water taps (fear of flooding), door locks (fear of robbery), etc.

Checking is often undertaken multiple times throughout the day and ends up being extremely time-consuming.

It ends up being extremely time consuming and interferes with daily living like work, relationships, etc.


Here an individual’s inability to dump or trash purposeless or worn out possessions, save or collect things even when they have no space to keep is known as hoarding.

There are 3 categories of hoarding;

  • Preventing harm hoarding – Here the individual wants to prevent harm and hence refuses to throw away. For example, if they throw away cans or glass objects, garbage collectors will be harmed due to those objects.
  • Deprivation Hoarding – Here the individual doesn’t throw the object away as they believe that they might need the object later use or purpose.  For example, they refuse to throw away old newspapers as they believe they haven’t finished reading or might need it later
  • Emotional Hoarding – Here the individual hoards things because they hold emotional or is highly significant value for them. For example, they would keep old toys and clothes from their childhood as those items hold fond memories.


While the name for these two types of OCD may be similar, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder types and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder are quite different. 

OCD usually involves obsessions that are followed by compulsive behaviors. Whereas, OCPD describes a set of personality traits that will interfere with a person’s relationships.

OCPD is the extreme need to have things in a certain order, constantly striving for perfection, and having control over almost everything in their lives, this also includes personal relationships. OCD is confined to a set of obsessive compulsions and related thoughts. 

Patients who are suffering from OCD will likely look for help because the symptoms are stressing them out. Patients who are suffering from OCPD may not notice that their characteristics and their personality is rigid.

Also, they don’t realize that the need for perfection can be quite problematic; even if it has destructive effects on their well-being and relationships.

How is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder treated?

Generally, a typical treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder includes a combination of psychotherapy (CBT or ERP), and medications or a combination of both for optimal results.

OCD and OCD related disorders are mental health issues that won’t just go away on its own. The symptoms of OCD can be managed, however, it’s not something that can be ignored or controlled. Repetitive thought patterns and behaviours may intrude and begin controlling your life if you continue to ignore your OCD symptoms. If you do not seek treatment, your life will be disrupted by episodes at the advanced stages of OCD.

Accepting that you have a problem and visiting a doctor is the first step towards OCD recovery. They will conduct an examination and analyze the symptoms that lead to physical compulsions. Your primary doctor will then refer you to a mental health specialist like a therapist, psychologist, therapist, or social worker, and they will create an efficient treatment plan for you. If the medical professional thinks you need medication, then they will refer you to a psychiatrist.

Generally, a combination of talk therapy and medication is quite effective for patients with thought disorders such as OCD. Long term treatment may be required, however, it has been found to be highly effective in improving the quality of life for OCD sufferers.


It primarily helps in relieving obsessions and compulsions. One of the most effective obsession psychology treatments includes – Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP – a type of CBT).

Cognitive-behavioural therapy: OCD is a vicious cycle that includes obsessions, anxiety, compulsions, and relief. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that provides you with tools to think, act, and react to your negative and obsessive thought patterns. Ultimately the goal is to replace any negative thoughts with positive/productive ones. 

Exposure and Response treatment:  ERP therapy is designed in a way that helps the individual control and tolerate the anxiety associated with obsessive thoughts and simultaneously not allowing them to act on a compulsion to reduce that anxiety. With consistent practice, the anxiety reduces and the individual feels better. This is a type of cognitive treatment, and here you will be exposed to situations that trigger your OCD.

The exposure will be gradual, and it will help you cope with the situation and teach you to respond to it, as well. The process of ERP will either be done one on one or in group therapy.  It will help you identify and deal with your OCD triggers better. 


To cut down the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, experts and medical practitioners often prescribe antidepressants alongside the therapy sessions. One of the most common antidepressants often recommended by experts is called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) as it has been benefited many individuals by reducing their obsessions and compulsions. 

If the medical professional thinks you need medicines for your OCD related disorders, then antidepressants are prescribed. This doesn’t mean you are depressed, but the medicines are known to help with OCD as well. Your doctor will decide on your medications once they are aware of your age, current health status, and symptoms.

OCD medicines take some time to kick in, and the doctor will make you aware of various side effects like dry mouth and nausea. If you are having any suicidal thoughts as a result of your OCD medication, contact your doctor immediately.

You must stick to your prescription and take your medicines on schedule. Once the timeline for your medicines is done, you have to stop taking them; you need to consult with the doctor, they will tell you how to taper off safely. It’s suggested that you don’t stop taking medication cold turkey because it may trigger a relapse or severe withdrawal symptoms. 

Other treatments:

There are times where OCD subtypes don’t respond well to therapy or medication. Some of the treatments that can treat severe forms of OCD are:

Deep brain stimulation: This process includes surgically implanting electrodes in the brain, to stimulate it.

Electroconvulsive therapy: This is an intense treatment that includes attaching electrodes to the head and giving you shocks to induce seizures. Through the shock, the brain releases hormones such as serotonin.

The treatment goal for OCD and  OCD related disorders is to retrain your brain and control the symptoms, with little to no medication.

How can you support someone with OCD?

You must communicate with your loved ones if they are suffering from OCD, that you understand the difference between the symptoms of OCD and the person. Phrases like “I know this is not you, it’s your OCD” can go a long way and help the patient reduce their stress levels and anxiety. It will also help reduce any guilt or low self-esteem issues.

support someone with ocd

Here are some ways you can support a loved one suffering from OCD-

  • Support and encourage the patient so that they talk about their disorders. This will help you learn how it affects the person, and it will help you learn how to be supportive as well. However, don’t contribute to conversations about the logic behind OCD, people suffering from this disorder know the compulsions and obsessions behind OCD and they know it’s excessive and irrational.


  • Motivate the patient to seek professional help. OCD is a condition that won’t go away unless you seek professional help and treatment. You can help the person locate an experienced therapist and offer to be involved during the treatment.


  • Normalize OCD discussion in the household. Don’t make it awkward or shy away from talking about the person’s compulsions and obsessions. Let them know that there is nothing wrong with talking about it and seeking professional help. When you spot an OCD patient and make it comfortable for them to talk about it, it will help them break any secrecy about OCD


  • Notice improvements and acknowledge them, no matter how small, and motivate the person to reward themselves for their progress.


  • Various obsessive-compulsive disorder types can cause exhaustion to the person and it leads to a lack of motivation. If the patient is not encouraged to be better they will consider stopping the treatment. If you want to support someone with different types of obsession disorders, then you have to remind them of the positive results they have gained through the recovery process and encourage them to go on.

There are a variety of treatment options available for OCD based on the type and symptoms you are experiencing. From Neurofeedback treatment, psychotherapy and medications OCD symptoms can be managed and controlled. 

However, based on the nature of your symptoms there are a variety of treatment options available and tailor-made specifically to the type of OCD you are suffering. From Neurofeedback treatment, psychotherapy and medications OCD symptoms can be managed and controlled. 

For more details on how OCD treatment can help you, call us on +919611194949.