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OCD: most common types of obsessions and compulsions

OCD: most common types of obsessions and compulsions

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A obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) It is an anxiety disorder that usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood, but can also begin in childhood. It is a problem where the central axis is the fear of something terrible happening. The characteristic of the obsessive-compulsive problem is the presence of obsessions or compulsions.


  • 1 The obsessions
  • 2 Compulsions
  • 3 Main manifestations of obsessions
  • 4 Undercover Rituals of Obsessions
  • 5 Other types of obsessions

The obsessions

Obsessions are repetitive and high frequency involuntary thoughts that appear in our mind without our wishing. They can be expressed in the form of words and phrases or images. The content is threatening, morally unacceptable, grotesque or strange to the person who suffers it; for example, to believe that one has been infected with AIDS, that the cigarette butt that I leave in the ashtray is going to cause a fire or that you want to insult someone.


Compulsions are stereotyped, voluntary behaviors, which can become very organized and elaborate. They aim to reduce the possibility of the dreaded catastrophe happening or block the anxiety caused by the obsession itself. You can run physically, such as washing your hands or checking that the phone is well hung, and mentally, such as doing mathematical operations.

Main manifestations of obsessions

We will classify them according to the type of basic ritual. As the emotional response is always anxiety, we will describe the trigger situations, obsessions and rituals.

Those who wash or clean

The obsessions are centered on the topic of pollution, dirt, diseases or similar issues. There are specific fears of becoming infected with a certain disease, but other times the obsessions are more diffuse they could be reflected in thoughts such as disgust, not being able to stand dirty or this is disgusting. The rituals are usually washing or cleaning.

Those who check

The obsessions are focused on the occurrence of possible catastrophes that vary according to the type of situations in which they appear. The most frequent are fears of fires or explosions of gas, electrical appliances or cigarettes, and the rituals logically have to do with checking the good condition of these items. Other times the fears speak of the possibility of being robbed and the compulsions are of checking doors, windows or car locks.

More infrequently, but not uncommonly, is finding document testers, numerical works and in general any professional execution. For example, compulsively check for spelling mistakes or perform arithmetic operations over and over again to make sure there are no errors.

Special mention deserves those cases of people who greatly ritualize a part of their work. Within this category, an infrequent but spectacular subtype is found. The trigger situation is usually driving. Sometimes in specific circumstances such as overtaking or catching potholes it causes doubt about whether someone has been run over or an accident has been caused. The check is usually to look through the rearview mirror, take your head out the window and get out of the car to check if someone has been run over, or even repeat the same route several times with the same objective.

In general, all testers in addition to rituals and the avoidance of problem situations tend to use the reinsurance strategy: "Have you seen me put out the fire?"

Those who order

The obsessions are usually somewhat abstract and could generically be summarized as It is absolutely essential that everything is tidy, fixed and in place. From there it is easy to deduce the type of rituals that they develop, such as, for example, that the furniture is organized in a certain way, often looking for symmetry, desks or decorative objects are placed following inflexible rules.

Those who repeat

Fears or obsessions are about anticipation that a catastrophe will happen and the way to neutralize it is to repeat a daily action several times. The most feared catastrophes are that they themselves or loved ones have traffic accidents, illnesses or problems at work. The range of repeated actions is very wide: knock the door handle several times, cross themselves repeatedly, grimace, swallow saliva several times in a row looking at a wall, etc.

Those who accumulate

The obsessions are related to the fear of throwing something important or that in the future may need. Compulsions consist of accumulating, storing, storing objects that most of the time makes no sense to keep.

Those who make sure not to hurt

The obsessions are from harm certain people or oneself. Many times they fear harming especially disadvantaged people who, because of their condition (children and the elderly), because of their position (being on their backs) or their activity (sleeping, studying) are especially vulnerable. It is very common that some of these obsessions appear as parents, especially in situations of handling the baby. These obsessions are very disturbing, especially if they appear in the person with an imperative format: "hit him". On other occasions they appear in the form of a question: “What if he slashed his scissors in his face?

The neutralization strategies are consequently destined to prevent acts of violence, such as avoiding being left alone with the victim or removing objects that they would use to harm.

A variant of these obsessions would be sexual violence obsessions, suicide obsessions and people who are afraid of losing control in the form of verbal aggressions or publicly telling intimacies or secrets.

Undercover Rituals of Obsessions

In all types of obsessive compulsive disorder described so far, neutralization behaviors tend to be predominantly physical, that is, people avoid risky situations and act compulsively to get rid of discomfort.

Next we will describe different categories where most relevant blocking strategies are those intended.

Many of the following categories were classically labeled as "pure obsessions" or also called "ruminations."

Those who restore mentally

The most characteristic example of this category involves having an obsession in the form of profanity that can sometimes be in the form of an image. The cognitive ritual is to create a “good” image, which replaces the bad ones. This type of problem is usually suffered by people with deep religious convictions. Also related to this religious theme, sometimes obsessions of demonic content may appear whose rituals typically include praying or mentally repeating that what you fear is not going to happen. One modality of mental restitutors are those who fear being gay, one of the neutralization strategies is to rescue data many times in the form of an image that they are indeed heterosexual.

Those who check mentally

They would be the covert or mental version of the physical testers. Characteristic catastrophes, robberies, fires, explosions, etc. are feared. Block discomfort and reduce the possibility of catastrophe by mentally checking that dangerous situations are safe.

Those who repeat mentally

As in the case of physical repeaters, personal catastrophes or loved ones are feared, but the main strategy to free oneself from fear is covertly repeat phrases, words, mathematical operations or even images.

Other types of obsessions

Those who look for symmetry

The obsession relates to find body perfection, which is defined in terms of symmetry, the characteristic ritual is to compare by looking, touching, measuring, the left and right parts of the member or body area in question.

Those who perform actions slowly

The disturbing obsession is get the perfect executionThey are usually everyday actions, shaving, a shower, etc.

Those who try to answer philosophical questions

Obsession is a question about any area of ​​human knowledge. The rituals are attempts to respond again and again possible answers. Here we also include those people who have doubts about the meaning of the words.

Those who try to "deny" death

Obsessions are thoughts about his own death or about the death of loved ones. Rituals consist essentially in rationalizing.

Those who try to answer everyday questions or about personal relationships

Here the doubts are about how to decide daily aspects of your own life: that I wear?". Neutralization behaviors are a constant analysis of the pros and cons of each of the alternatives that seem endless. Even if they make a decision for practical reasons, they are never satisfied that they decided the right one. They use reinsurance a lot in the form of asking others for advice.

Those who try to verify that they are not deceived

They suffer jealousy. Not all people who have the problem of jealousy have it in the form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Pathological jealousy is a very complex and multicausal problem. It can be related to the lack of self-esteem and personal insecurity, feeling of possession towards the other person or with a generically suspicious sense towards the whole world. The obsession is a thought or image that the person's partner could be with another, or like or interest him, and the ritual has to do with verifying that this is not the case: interrogating, phoning or checking things.

Those who try to close matters

They are obsessions that come from relationships with other people, even from past relationships. Their discomfort comes from thinking if their performance was adequate or what they wanted to do: What did I say? Is my position clear? Why do I treat myself like this? The rituals, always cognitive, try to review how the conversation went, remember what was said and what was not, or look for a better response alternative to handle the situation. There is no end, they never reach a conclusion.

It may interest you: Obsessive compulsive character test

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