A Look at OCD Types of Obsessions

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Overview

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a form of anxiety disorder that is characterized by disturbing, uncontrollable thoughts usually combined with compulsive, often repetitive behaviors or rituals that interfere with daily life. There are five main OCD types of obsessions: washers, checkers, orderers, hoarders and obsessors. These types of obsessions are not mutually exclusive, and some people suffer from more than one type at the same time.

Washers and Cleaners

Washers and cleaners have a fear of germs and infection. They are afraid that they will become contaminated by harmful bacteria, viruses or dirt that may cause them to catch a disease, or fear that they will contaminate others and cause them to become ill. To avoid this, washers repeatedly wash their hands or take showers. Cleaners are more concerned with becoming contaminated by their surroundings, so they compulsively wash, clean and disinfect their clothes and homes.


This type of OCD centers around a fear that something bad will happen because they neglected to take care of something, such as turn off the stove or iron, lock the doors and windows, or set the burglar alarm. As a result, they compulsively check things repeatedly to make sure everything is all right. They also may call loved ones several times a day to make sure they are safe. This behavior may take up so much time that it prevents them from accomplishing their normal daily activities.


An obsession with order and symmetry defines this type of OCD. Objects may have to be lined up in a perfectly straight line, or arranged in a certain way. Often, people who are orderers are unable to do anything without first arranging everything in a precise way, and they may become very upset if someone touches or moves the objects after they have been fixed. Orderers may also be superstitious about certain characteristics of things, such as numbers or colors.


Hoarders have a fear of throwing something away that they may need at some point in the future. They may also have an irrational fear that something harmful will occur if they discard things. As a result, they cannot throw anything away, and they hoard things that are mostly worthless such as old newspapers and magazines, bottles or jars. Often, their homes become filled with so many things that the living space becomes unusable.

Obsessors (Obsessionals)

Obsessors, also known as obsessionals, are troubled by constant intrusive thoughts or disturbing mental images. These may be thoughts of themselves harming other people, or other distressing pictures. In order to prevent something bad from happening, the sufferer of this type of OCD feels compelled to count, tap, repeat words or perform other specific rituals.

The OCD types of obsessions may change over time. Obsessive thoughts may or may not be accompanied by compulsive behaviors. The symptoms often become worse with stress.