OCD and Linked Mental Health Disorders

Written By Alla Levin
October 03, 2022

OCD and Linked Mental Health Disorders

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic behavioral disorder characterized by recurring intrusive thoughts followed by obsessions and compulsions. This reasonably common disorder affects about 2.2 million people in the US.

But many people with OCD go undiagnosed due to the various co-occurring conditions of OCD that make it challenging for professionals to give a concrete diagnosis. Some co-occurring mental health disorders of OCD are the following. 

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder;
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder;
  • Depression;
  • Panic Disorder.

The dual diagnosis of co-occurring disorders makes OCD treatment extremely challenging. Therefore, a medical professional must have a deep understanding of these comorbid disorders that occur alongside OCD to give a diagnosis.

What Is Comorbidity?

Comorbidity is when a person exhibits more than one mental health problem. For example, if depression and anxiety are jointly diagnosed, they are referred to as comorbidities.

The co-occurring disorders are usually responsible for leading to another disorder’s development. Therefore, medical professionals treat comorbid mental health problems simultaneously.

Disorders Related to OCDDisorders Related to OCD

People with OCD get diagnosed with various comorbid disorders. Comorbid disorders differ from multiple types of OCD as those are the subtypes while these are co-occurring diseases. Here are some common comorbid conditions that occur with OCD. 

  • Anxiety disorders;
  • Depression;
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD;)
  • Eating disorders;
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD;)

These are typical examples of comorbid disorders that may affect how a therapist treats OCD because such conditions have overlapping symptoms. But it is critical for a person with OCD to have the proper diagnosis for an effective treatment plan.

Similar disorders also tend to have different treatment strategies. Thus, providing the wrong treatment for comorbid disorders can result in unnecessary suffering, wasted resources, wasted time, and hopelessness. Now let us look into the comorbid conditions of OCD. 

OCD and Panic Disorder

OCD is a subcategory of anxiety disorders. Various categories of anxiety disorders are closely linked to panic disorder. In panic disorders, a person experiences panic attacks. They subconsciously interpret unnecessary danger as a self-imagined stimulus.

Many people with OCD often develop compulsions from their fear of specific obsessions. Therefore, they experience panic attacks as a response to their compulsive thoughts, which become fear. 

OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder shares common symptoms with OCD, such as the expected checking behavior. Body dysmorphic disorder vandalizes a person’s ability to perceive themselves.

People with BDD stay focused on certain flaws they see. For example, such people focus intently on improving their appearance to seek reassurance about their looks. They also avoid social situations which could reveal their perceived flaw.

BDD sometimes contributes to eating disorders such as anorexia, but these are different. 

OCD’s Relationship With Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is often a co-occurring disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and phobias often co-occur. Moreover, anxiety disorder is the most common co-occurring disorder of OCD. Anxiety symptoms are variable, but they make a patient worried and nervous.

Patients may feel that their worries and nervousness are illogical. But they subconsciously affect an individual to the point that it starts deteriorating their physical health.

Some notable anxiety symptoms are hand tremors, sweaty palms, nervousness, jitteriness, etc. Even if an individual recognizes anxiety symptoms, they cannot treat the negative thoughts without seeking medical assistance. 

OCD and Linked Mental Health Disorders: OCD and Mood Disorders

Mood disorder is commonly used to describe various types of depression, such as the following.  

  • Postpartum depression;
  • Major depression;
  • Bipolar disorder;
  • Chronic depression.

The symptoms and triggers of mood disorders differ for every individual as it exclusively depends on the type of mood disorder and the severity of the problem. Here are some of the common symptoms.

  • Disinterest in activities;
  • Low mood;
  • Extreme mood fluctuations;
  • Thoughts of self-harm/suicide;
  • Feeling helpless;
  • Negative feelings about self.

OCD and Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder often coexists with OCD. These two mental health disorders feed off each other and grow more severe. It doesn’t matter which of the two mental health disorders occurs first. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can make a person feel hopeless and stuck. It also significantly affects their self-esteem.

Such feelings can give rise to major depressive disorder. Therefore, OCD and major depressive disorder often have common symptoms, making it challenging to identify the two conditions separately.

Moreover, you’d be surprised to know that depressive disorders correlate with the imbalance of our brain chemicals called serotonin. A chemical imbalance of serotonin also results in OCD. Therefore, these are closely related mental health disorders that affect an individual’s self-esteem and feelings. 

OCD and Eating Disorders

Some people with OCD may have an obsession and compulsion related to food. This creates various eating disorders, such as the following.

  • Binge eating disorder;
  • Bulimia;
  • Anorexia nervosa.

While these disorders significantly differ, they result from obsessiveness and compulsivity. For example, a common factor is a person’s obsession with food. People with an eating disorder often obsess over their eating habits and feel anxious when they do not follow a specific pattern.

If a person with OCD develops a compulsiveness regarding food, they must closely inspect their eating behavior as there is a high risk of developing an eating disorder. 

OCD and Self Harm

Anyone with intrusive thoughts about suicide and self-harm should seek professional medical help. In addition, people with OCD must monitor their conditions for signs of anxiety and depression, as these comorbidities can worsen intrusive thoughts.

About 60% of people with OCD experience one depressive episode. Such episodes can worsen intrusive thoughts. Besides this, bipolar disorder can also contribute to manic periods. Such people are also more likely to develop OCD

OCD and Linked Mental Health Disorders: Final Words

Various other comorbidities can occur with OCD. But the comorbidities mentioned above are the most common disorders with OCD, making it challenging for medical healthcare providers to identify them.

Professional treatment is vital for someone who experiences OCD and associated disorders before the symptoms worsen. But treatment isn’t the only solution to curing OCD. First, you must work on your self-control and indecisiveness to stop resisting your urges as it reinforces the compulsions.

You must also take gradual steps toward recovery and stay patient. Finally, remember that OCD may be chronic, but it is treatable, and many people can overcome it with a strong willingness to improve. 

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