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What Causes OCD to Get Worse & What to do if It Does

What Causes OCD to Get Worse & What to do if It Does

photo of a young man looking reflectively at something off to his side

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is more common than most people are led to believe. Furthermore, it is also a serious mental health condition that can dramatically impact a person’s quality of life. While some people might joke about OCD, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Managing OCD is not impossible, but it definitely is challenging. OCD causes one to have obsessive thoughts, which turn into a strong compulsion to complete tasks or rituals. OCD symptoms can start slowly and are not intrusive. However, when left untreated, symptoms can worsen. The obsessive thoughts and behaviors will impact one’s health and daily functioning.

Here are a few causes that make OCD worse and tips on how to handle it when it does.

What Makes OCD Worse?

One of the main causes of OCD worsening is the existence of other mental health conditions such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Health anxiety
  • Tic disorder
  • Impulse issues

The existence of other mental health disorders can make the cycle of OCD vicious. As other conditions worsen, it increases the chances of OCD changing as well. OCD manifests itself differently for every single person. So, there’s no exact measurement for when, if, or how OCD could worsen.

What Does This Mean?

When OCD symptoms worsen, it increases the chances of other symptoms becoming more severe. One might experience:

  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulties with school or work
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Depression

How To Manage OCD

Regardless of what causes OCD symptoms to worsen, it’s important to know how to manage obsessive thoughts and compulsions.

Know Your Triggers

The first step to managing OCD is to recognize what triggers the compulsions. What thoughts or fears do you have before you feel compelled to perform a specific ritual?

Once you understand what triggers your symptoms, the next tip will become easier to implement.

photo of a young man looking reflectively at something off to his sideDistract Yourself

When you feel triggered by something, try to distract yourself by doing a completely different activity. For instance, say you have obsessive thoughts about cleanliness or germs. Your compulsion might be to wash your hands frequently. If you are excessively thinking about catching something, do a different type of hands-on activity. Play with a fidget cube or spinner, or walk briskly outside.

Manage Stress Levels

Keeping stress levels to a bare minimum is essential for managing all mental health disorders, especially OCD. When stress is managed, it can help prevent obsessive thoughts from ever occurring. Even if the external factors stressing you out have nothing to do with your obsessive thoughts, they can still impact OCD. How each individual person learns to relax will be different, so it might be a trial and error process to find what is effective for you. In general, great relaxation techniques are:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Spending time with a favorite activity or hobby

Don’t Try To Prevent Obsessive Thoughts

This might sound counterintuitive, but hear us out. The harder you try to prevent thoughts from happening, the more they can impact you. The saying “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply to mental health. Pushing thoughts away can increase obsessive thoughts as well as worsen OCD symptoms.

Seek Support

OCD is a complex disorder. Because of this, treating it will need to be a multi-faceted approach. Learning to manage OCD so it doesn’t worsen over time takes patience and practice; unfortunately, it won’t be an overnight transformation.

The best combination of treatment methods will often include the ones we listed above, medication (if applicable), and therapy.

Therapy is a transformative tool that has helped millions of people throughout the world find relief from damaging mental health concerns. Don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more about OCD treatment.

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