7 Causes that Can Make OCD Worse

ocd getting worse

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is when you have troubling thoughts and do the same things over and over again, which can make it hard to do everyday stuff. It’s different for everyone, but some things can make it worse. Knowing what makes OCD worse is important for dealing with it.

How do you know if you have OCD?

Recognizing OCD means noticing when someone has thoughts that won’t go away (called obsessions) and doing things over and over again (called compulsions) to deal with those thoughts. Obsessions can be scary or bothersome thoughts that keep coming back, like worrying about germs or feeling like something bad will happen. Compulsions are actions or rituals someone feels like they have to do to make the thoughts go away, like washing their hands a lot or checking things over and over.

OCD can mess up someone’s life because these thoughts and actions take up a lot of time and energy. Even though they try hard to stop or control them, they usually only get temporary relief. OCD can make it tough to work, go to school, or have good relationships.

It’s important to see a doctor who knows about mental health to get the right diagnosis and treatment plan. They’ll ask questions and watch how someone acts to figure out if it’s OCD or something else. Then they can come up with ways to help manage it.

Do you acquire it, or are you born with it?

The cause of OCD is a mix of things like genes, environment, and how the brain works. Some people might have a family history of OCD or certain genes that make them more likely to have it, but not everyone with those genes will get OCD.

Things like stressful life events or traumatic experiences can also play a part in making OCD worse or bringing it on. Big life changes, problems in relationships, or tough times at school or work can make someone more likely to have OCD.

In the brain, some differences can be linked to OCD. Changes in brain structure, chemicals called neurotransmitters (especially serotonin), and how certain parts of the brain work all play a role. Brain scans have shown that some areas of the brain are more active in people with OCD, like the part that deals with worries and the part that controls actions.

7 Things That Make OCD Worse

There are plenty of things that can make OCD worse and below are the most common ones:

1. Stress

High levels of stress can significantly exacerbate OCD symptoms, leading to increased anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Stressful life events, such as relocating to a new city, starting a new career, or dealing with marital problems, can trigger or exacerbate OCD symptoms. The disruption of routines and the overwhelming nature of major life changes can intensify obsessions and compulsions, making it challenging to manage symptoms effectively.

2. Physiological changes

Hormonal variations, such as those that occur during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, can have a significant impact on the severity of OCD. These physiological changes alter neurochemistry and may exacerbate obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. For example, individuals undergoing hormonal shifts during puberty or midlife may notice an increase in OCD symptoms as their bodies undergo significant changes that affect mood regulation and cognitive function.

3. Guilt

Feelings of guilt or self-blame can fuel OCD symptoms, particularly when linked to perceived failures or moral transgressions. Individuals with OCD may experience intense guilt over minor mistakes or perceived wrongdoing, leading to compulsive behaviors aimed at alleviating guilt or preventing harm. This cycle of guilt and compulsions can exacerbate OCD symptoms and contribute to feelings of shame and inadequacy.

4. Perfectionism

Unrealistic standards and a constant need for perfection can heighten OCD symptoms as individuals strive to meet impossible expectations. The relentless pursuit of flawlessness can trigger obsessions related to symmetry, orderliness, or cleanliness, leading to compulsive rituals aimed at achieving unattainable standards. This perfectionistic mindset exacerbates anxiety and distress, perpetuating the cycle of OCD.

5. Thought-action fusion

Believing that having certain thoughts is equivalent to taking action can intensify OCD symptoms and increase anxiety levels. This cognitive distortion can lead individuals to interpret intrusive thoughts as meaningful or dangerous, triggering compulsive rituals to neutralize perceived threats. For example, someone with OCD may believe that having a violent thought makes them capable of committing harm, leading to compulsive behaviors aimed at preventing harm or seeking reassurance.

6. Skimping on sleep

Inadequate sleep can affect cognitive performance and emotional stability, making it difficult to successfully treat OCD symptoms. Disrupted sleep patterns can exacerbate intrusive thoughts and increase anxiety levels, leading to heightened distress and difficulty coping with obsessions and compulsions. Prioritizing proper sleep hygiene and getting therapy for sleep problems can help OCD sufferers manage their symptoms and enhance their overall well-being.

7. Unhealthy habits

Engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, avoidance behaviors, or self-isolation, can worsen OCD symptoms and perpetuate the cycle of OCD. These maladaptive strategies provide temporary relief from anxiety but ultimately reinforce obsessions and compulsions, making it harder to break free from the grip of OCD. Seeking healthier coping mechanisms, such as mindfulness meditation, physical exercise, or creative expression, can support long-term recovery and improve quality of life.

How is OCD treated?

OCD can’t be cured, but it can be managed with different methods like therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. One popular therapy for OCD is called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), especially a type called exposure and response prevention (ERP). In ERP, people face their fears gradually and learn not to do their compulsive behaviors, which helps them handle uncertainty and feel less anxious.

Medicines like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might also help with OCD by balancing certain chemicals in the brain. Along with therapy and medicine, making changes in your life like finding ways to manage stress, exercising regularly, and getting good sleep can also help you feel better and manage OCD symptoms in the long run.

Avoid the things that make OCD worse

To make OCD less troublesome, it’s important to take care of yourself and find ways to manage stress. Doing regular exercise, practicing mindfulness and relaxation, and living healthily can all help make OCD symptoms less severe. Also, getting support from mental health experts and having people who understand you can make dealing with OCD easier.

Knowing what makes OCD worse is key to handling it well. People with OCD can improve how they feel and make their symptoms less intense by recognizing and dealing with triggers like stress, guilt, and wanting everything to be perfect. With the right help and support, it’s possible to overcome the challenges of OCD and live a fulfilling life.


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