OCD Types and Their Symptoms

Variety of OCD Subtypes, Experienced in a Variety of Ways

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The concept of OCD types may seem like a foreign one to some. Many people believe that OCD causes the exact same set of symptoms and is experienced in the same way by every person it affects. Though OCD is broadly defined as the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions that cause major distress or disruption to daily living, there are nuances in the symptoms of OCD.

OCD can affect individuals differently depending on when it occurs, for example, and it can appear in vulnerable individuals in response to very specific circumstances (such as infection or the birth of a child).

Although symptoms of OCD can begin at almost any age, there are two distinct periods when OCD symptoms are most likely to appear. People who develop OCD before puberty are considered to have early onset OCD, while those who develop OCD later in life have late-onset OCD. The effective treatment of OCD symptoms may depend on when your OCD symptoms started.

Clinicians and mental health researchers have suggested that OCD can be further divided into different subtypes based on the nature of the symptoms experienced, such obsessions and compulsions related to cleanliness versus obsessions and compulsions related to symmetry.

Although the experience of a particular symptom subtypes appears to be relatively stable, it is possible to experience a change in the nature and focus of your symptoms over time. In general, most symptom subtypes respond to some combination of cognitive-behavior therapy, exposure and response prevention and medication.

Pathological or Compulsive Hoarding

This subtype of OCD has received considerable attention. In general, hoarding is characterized by acquiring and failing to throw out a large number of items that would appear to have little or no value to others (such as newspapers), in turn causing severe cluttering of the person’s home so that it is no longer able to function as a viable living space and significant distress or impairment of work or social life.

Hoarding can be the affected person’s only symptom or it can be one of just many OCD symptoms they experience.

OCD After a Baby

OCD symptoms that emerge after the birth of a child make up what's called postpartum-onset OCD. Although it is not uncommon for new mothers to experience a wide array of emotions following the arrival of a new child, the postpartum period has long been known to be a time of increased risk for the appearance, worsening or recurrence of mood and anxiety disorders. A number of studies have suggested that the postpartum period may also present a risk for the start or worsening of OCD.

OCD in Kids

Although many people think of OCD as a disorder that affects only adults, a similar percentage of children are also affected. While there are many similarities between adult-onset and childhood-onset OCD, there are also many important differences -- particularly with respect to treatment and the nature of symptoms.

In addition, some cases of childhood-onset OCD, such as PANDAS, may have causes that are unique to children.

Although we usually think of OCD as being caused by a combination of stress, genetic factors and an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, there is growing evidence that a specific form of childhood of OCD may actually be an autoimmune disorder.

Sources:

Filardi da Rocha, F., Correa, H., & Teixeira, A.L. “Obsessive-compulsive disorder and immunology: a review” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 2008 32: 1139-1146.

Lomax, C.L., Oldfield, V.B., "Salkovskis, P.M. Clinical and treatment comparisons between adults with early- and late-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder." Behavior Research and Therapy 2009: 99-104.

McKay, D., Abramowtiz, J.S., Calamari, J.E., Kyrios, M., Radomski, A., Sookman, D., Taylor, S., & Wilhelm, S. “A critical evaluation of obsessive-compulsive disorder subtypes: Symptoms versus mechanisms” Clinical Psychology Review 2004 24: 283-313.

Starcevic, V., & Brakoulias, V. “Symptom subtypes of obsessive-compulsive disorder: are they relevant for treatment?” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2008 42: 651-661.

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