The Link Between OCD and Depression


Individuals dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often find it hard to deal with the disorder because they face a greater risk of developing some other forms of mental illnesses, the most common illness being the major depressive disorder or MDD.

According to research and studies at a leading mental health studies institution, at least two-thirds of all individuals with OCD experience major depressive episodes some time in the course of their illness. They report that this neuropsychiatric disorder will affect between 1 and 3 percent of the population. It is an etiologically heterogeneous medical condition, and it has associations with other psychiatric conditions.

Between 60 and 80 percent of the patients with OCD experience the depressive episodes in their lifetime. However, the reason for these numbers is varying with the causes known to range from reactive stresses to some an individual’s compulsive or obsessive behaviors to significant biochemical changes within the brain.

These changes alter an individual’s mood and behavior. In the long run, management of OCD is tough if someone suffers from depression as well because the medication used to treat the symptoms of OCD are not as effective.

A detailed look at OCD and how it affects individuals

OCD is a form of an anxiety disorder and could also be referred to as a psychiatric disorder characterized by primary obsessions, compulsions, and recurrent symptoms. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, the condition affects an individual’s quality of life significantly.

What are obsessions?

These are unwanted ideas, images or thoughts which won’t go away from the mind, causing an extreme level of distress. The need for extreme order, having repeated doubts, fearing contamination with some deadly disease by using a public amenity, or believing you will hit someone with your car are some of the obsessions (obsessive thoughts) persons with OCD deal with. The obsessive thoughts also include fears of being a pedophile or having extreme and disturbing religious and sexual imagery.

What are compulsions?

These are the behaviors from your obsessive thoughts. An individual feels that they should carry out the behaviors constantly to stop the negative and unwanted thoughts. So, if you have an obsession over contaminations, you may end up washing your hands over and over or cleaning the house to what others may call extreme levels.

There are different types of OCD. They include checking, rumination or having intrusive thoughts, mental contamination, and hoarding.

On the other hand, you have major depressive episodes. How does it affect individuals and what is the link between OCD and MDD?


It’s more than feeling sad and lonely. For one to receive an MDD diagnosis, you have to have gone through a depressed mood and a significant loss in interest in things you once found interesting and enjoyable. This should happen for at least 2 weeks. At the same time, you have to exhibit the following habits within those two weeks:

You could be eating or sleeping too little or too much, feeling fidgety or slowed down, having low energy, problems concentrating, dealing with feelings of inappropriate guilt or worthlessness, or having recurrent thoughts of suicide or death. Because of the severity of these symptoms, your work or social life is affected significantly.

So, what links these two psychoneurotic conditions?

OCD affects how you live and how you relate with other people. On the other hand, depression is related to the personal stress of living with OCD and all the troubles at home resulting from OCD. But, that’s not all.

Studies point to the possibility of biological factors contributing to depressive episodes. The activity and the production of the neurotransmitter, serotonin: a chemical involved in the transmission of signals between the synaptic junctions of nerves cells, can cause the psychiatric changes.

Effects of the biochemical changes and the low levels of serotonin produced a result in the behavioral changes in individuals with OCD depression. So, by enhancing the effects of the biochemical imbalance, OCD perpetuates MDD.

Also, some evidence point to the fact that the symptoms of OCD depression could play an active role in the development of unwanted and disturbing obsessions which result in compulsions.

While treatment of both conditions at the same time is tough, it’s advisable for individuals with OCD to seek immediate help before the depressive feelings come in – OCD depression makes you question why you are taking the medication, hence the need for early diagnosis and treatment.

The best OCD treatments include:

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy
  2. Exposure and response prevention
  3. Medication – antidepressants
  4. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which help treat depression also improve the management of OCD.


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