Acera Health

OCD & Depression: How Are They Related?

An estimated 1.2 percent of American adults have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Are you one of them? 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder on its own can be debilitating, but having a comorbid mental health condition can make it even harder. Unfortunately, many people experience OCD and depression simultaneously. 

We’re here to talk about depression, OCD, and how the two relate. Read on to learn more.

What Is Depression? 

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions affecting adults. Almost five percent of people in the United States experience depressive symptoms, and this percentage seems consistent with worldwide statistics.

There are many potential causes of depression, and not all forms of depression are long-term. Major depressive disorder is what most people think of when they think of “clinical” or “chronic” depression. 

Depression isn’t just being sad. Common OCD symptoms in adults include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Fatigue
  • Apathy
  • Hopelessness
  • Poor appetite 
  • Brain fog


Because depression is so commonplace, it often masks other concurrent mental health conditions. It’s common for patients who have already been diagnosed with depression to have comorbid disorders that were hiding behind the depression diagnosis. 

What Is OCD?

OCD is obsessive-compulsive disorder. People who experience OCD often have obsessive and irrational thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors. 

OCD looks different for everyone. Someone with severe OCD may find themselves washing their hands until they’re raw and sore. Others may only need to keep a well-organized space. Regardless of the “severity” of the condition, all forms of OCD are valid. 

OCD And Depression: How These Conditions Coexist

So why would OCD and depression coexist? About 90 percent of people with OCD also have another comorbid condition. Over 40% of those people have a major depressive disorder. 

So why do these things show up alongside each other so often? It makes sense that OCD and anxiety would coexist (as obsession and compulsion can lead to anxiety), but why depression? 

Here are a few ways that these conditions feed into each other.

Depression And Obsession

OCD causes intrusive thoughts. Those thoughts trigger the compulsive behaviors that people with OCD display. Intrusive thoughts are almost always upsetting, disturbing, and sometimes even violent.

When these thoughts pop up, it’s normal for the person experiencing them to become distressed. The thoughts should pass quickly, but over time, they can lead to depressive episodes. The person with OCD may feel as though they’re not “in control” of their mind. 

When people with OCD feel as though they have control over their thoughts and actions, or when they feel that their compulsive actions have a real impact on the world around them, they’re less likely to experience depression as a result of intrusive thoughts. 

Depression And Compulsion

Compulsion is the other key part of OCD. 

People with OCD often have to complete repetitive actions to reduce their discomfort. For example, some people need to turn a light on and off a specific number of times to get rid of the fear that someone will break into their home at night. 

These compulsions are hard to break, but completing them isn’t much easier. There’s a high standard of perfection that people with OCD have to meet to soothe their obsessive thoughts.

This can lead people to feeling depressed. 

Can Depression Cause OCD?

While OCD symptoms may be able to cause depression, it’s unlikely that it works both ways. OCD is often genetic. It may also relate to childhood trauma. 

Depression can be genetic, but it can be triggered by OCD symptoms. 

Combating Your Symptoms

So what should you do when you think that you have both depression and OCD? How can you combat your symptoms alone and with a professional? 

Here are a few things that you should do to keep your symptoms under control.

Consult With A Professional

Handling one mental health condition is tough enough. When you have two comorbid conditions, it can feel impossible. It’s in your best interest to seek professional help if you want to ease your symptoms and take your life back. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a gold-standard therapy method for many mental health conditions. Depression and OCD are two of them. If you find an experienced therapist, they should be able to create a CBT treatment plan that addresses both problems. 

You may want to consider taking medication. Medication isn’t right for everyone, but adding SSRIs or common anti-anxiety medications to your treatment plan may help alleviate symptoms while you go through therapy. 

Combat OCD Symptoms First

It may be more helpful for you and your therapist to focus on your OCD symptoms before you combat your depression symptoms. As we mentioned before, symptoms of OCD can influence depression. 

By dealing with your OCD symptoms, you may find that you can alleviate your depression almost completely. 

Resist The Urge To Isolate

People with depression and OCD tend to self-isolate when they’re feeling low or out of control. This is self-defeating. The more you isolate yourself, the worse you’ll feel. 

It’s helpful to reach out to friends and family members, even on hard days. 

If you’re the loved one of someone with OCD and depression, make sure that you reach out. It may be hard for them to find the energy or will to reach out to you on their own. 

Do You Have OCD And Depression? 

Trying to combat two mental health conditions concurrently is overwhelming. If you’re struggling with both OCD and depression, it might be time for you to seek help.

There’s no cure for OCD or depression, but with therapy and medication management, you can reduce your symptoms and take your life back. If you’re looking for help with your healing journey, Acera Health is here for you. Reach out to us so we can start designing your ideal treatment plan today.

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