How Does Mild OCD Differ From Moderate Or Severe OCD?

Reviewed by Heather Cashell, LCSW

Published 12/28/2020

OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health condition characterized by obsessions and compulsions and other symptoms that occur alongside those obsessions and compulsions. These symptoms may include but aren't limited to rumination, repeated words or phrases, anxiety, irritability, withdrawal from others, and more. OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder can take many forms, and it also ranges in terms of severity. However, many people have questions like, "can you have mild OCD? Is it possible?" and "how common is OCD?" This article will answer those questions and talk about how mild OCD differs from moderate or severe OCD.

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Can You Have Mild OCD?

You can have mild OCD. However, that does not mean that you don't have OCD at all; it doesn't mean that your experience is not real, and it doesn't mean that you don't struggle with the condition. According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health or NIMH, 14.6% of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder have what's considered a mild obsessive-compulsive disorder, where 50.6% of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder have severe OCD, and 34.8% of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder have moderate OCD. This could be for a number of reasons. Since obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms can improve with treatment, it is possible to go from a place where obsessive-compulsive disorder impacts your life severely and pervasively to a place where, although you still have the condition, it's more manageable. It's important to remember that no matter how mild or severe your OCD impacts your life, you deserve to get support.

What Are The Different Subtypes Of OCD?

Again, the severity with which someone experiences obsessive-compulsive disorder is only one potential difference among people living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Every person living with obsessive-compulsive disorder is different. Here are some common subtypes of OCD to know about:

  • Contamination OCD, an obsession with avoiding contamination, which typically pairs with compulsions such as excessive washing and cleaning to avoid contamination.
  • Harm OCD, an obsession with avoiding harm, typically pairs with checking compulsions, such as checking to make sure that the door is locked or making sure that appliances are turned off.
  • Symmetry OCD, an obsession with order, which typically pairs with ordering obsessions, such as arranging items.
  • Purely obsessive OCD, which is a form of OCD where a sufferer experiences pervasive obsessions but no visual compulsions. Instead of visual compulsions, a person with purely obsessive OCD or "pure O" will often experience mental compulsions that manifest in a person's thoughts, such as counting or repeating phrases in one's head.

It is absolutely vital to remember that this is by no means an extensive list of the different ways that OCD can manifest. Other common manifestations or subtypes of OCD include relationship OCD, religious OCD, and sexuality OCD.

How Common Is OCD?

OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder is considered a common mental health condition. In the United States, obsessive-compulsive disorder impacts about one out of every 40 adults and roughly one out of every 100 children under 18. It impacts women and men pretty equally, but the age of onset for men with obsessive-compulsive disorder tends to be earlier. Several risk factors can predict a higher likelihood of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder, but there is no known singular direct cause. Family history is one potential risk factor or a predictor that someone has a higher likelihood of developing OCD, but it is not the only risk factor. If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, it's not your fault. With treatment, many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder can lead full, happy, and healthy lives.

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When Are OCD Symptoms Clinically Significant?

If someone has a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder, their symptoms are clinically significant. Although it can absolutely range in terms of severity, OCD is not a slang term, and it is not a term used to describe someone particular or quirky. To be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you have to meet the diagnostic criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder outlined in the most recent version of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders or DSM. It is important to fight stigma and bust myths about OCD because it allows more people to understand OCD among the general public. It allows more people to get the diagnosis that will allow them to get the support they need.


The DSM states that to be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessions and compulsions must be time-consuming, taking up over an hour of a person's time per day or causing clinically marked distress or hindrance person's functioning. Examples of functioning areas that may be affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder include social functioning (such as interpersonal relationships or the ability to engage in social activities) and one's ability to function at work or school. The DSM also states that a person's symptoms must not be better explained by other diagnoses or conditions. Click here to read the full diagnostic criteria for OCD as it's seen in the DSM-5, as well as a comparison between the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-4 and DSM-5.

Resources For People Living With OCD

If you're looking to learn more about obsessive-compulsive disorder, one great international resource is the international OCD foundation or IOCDF. The International OCD Foundation or IOCDF was formed in 1986 by people living with OCD themselves. Peer support may be beneficial to those living with OCD and loved ones of a person living with OCD. The IOCDEF has an online support community that was launched in 2018 called "my OCD community." My OCD community is an online forum with sub forums for OCD sufferers and people who are loved ones of a person with OCD.

Other peer support options include:

  • Support groups that meet in your local area. You can find a support group that meets near you by asking an OCD specialist in your area if they have any recommendations, searching for OCD

support groups near me, or using a resource directory like the one on the IOCDF website.

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    • Other mental health forums, such as the OCD UK forum, The OCD action forum UK, the OCD forum on the website, or the OCD forum on

    For learning more about OCD or techniques that can help people with OCD, you might consider looking for OCD workbooks or books about OCD. It's essential to remember that resources such as books about OCD, OCD workbooks, OCD forums, and OCD support groups cannot replace treatment for OCD.

    Treatment For Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

    The most common form of therapy used for obsessive-compulsive disorder is cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT, called exposure and response prevention therapy or ERP. For all information and advice regarding specific therapies or treatments, make sure to contact a medical or mental health provider. Treatment looks different for everyone, as does the trajectory of treatment, but improving your symptoms and your life is possible.

    To find a mental health provider in your area who works with obsessive-compulsive disorder, there are a number of routes you can take. Here are some ways to find a counselor or therapist:

    • Search the web for "OCD therapist near me,""OCD treatment near me," or "OCD counselor near me" using your search engine of choice.
    • Make an appointment with your primary care provider or a general doctor and ask for a referral to a counselor or therapist who works with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
    • Use an online search such as the one on the Mind Diagnostics website. To use the provider search tool on my Mind Diagnostics website, simply go to your page's upper right-hand corner and type in your ZIP code.
    • Use an online provider directory. One excellent resource is the IOCDF resource finder on the international OCD foundation website. Still, there are several websites with directories that list mental health professionals based on location and specialty.

    If you wish to receive counseling or therapy remotely, you may be interested in working with an online therapy website such as BetterHelp, or you might find a provider with a private practice in your area that offers remote sessions. Either way, be proud of yourself for taking the step and remember that you don't have to go through this alone.

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    Take The Mind Diagnostics OCD Test

    After learning more about OCD, are you wondering if you could have obsessive-compulsive disorder? If so, consider taking the Mind Diagnostics obsessive-compulsive disorder test. The Mind Diagnostics obsessive-compulsive disorder test is not a replacement for an evaluation or diagnosis from a medical or mental health professional, but taking the test can give you insight into your symptoms. It might just be the first step to getting the help that you need. Although OCD can affect people of all ages, the Mind Diagnostics obsessive-compulsive disorder test is for those aged 18 and older. The Mind Diagnostics OCD test is fast, free, and confidential. You will get your results sent to you via email directly after taking the test and inputting your email address.