From costly treatments to excessive frugality, OCD can cause a variety of money problems.
Whether you spend a lot of money keeping up with your compulsions, or engage in extreme frugality, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can have a big impact on your personal finances.
Living with OCD can impact your ability to earn money. Plus, treatment can be expensive.
Being “bad with money” isn’t a formal symptom of OCD. However, obsessions and compulsions can cause financial anxiety and money problems.
The good news is that OCD can be treated. It’s possible to manage your symptoms in a healthy way.
OCD and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) might sound similar, but they’re two different mental health conditions.
OCD involves experiencing obsessions (unwanted, distressing, persistent thoughts) and compulsions (urges to carry out repetitive rituals or behaviors to soothe the obsessions).
OCPD, on the other hand, is characterized by extreme perfectionism, a need to control, and strict adherence to rules. Because it’s a personality disorder, OCPD affects your behavior in all aspects of life, including your relationships, career, hobbies — and, yes, money. About 15% to 28% of people with OCD also have OCPD.
OCD can cause a variety of money problems.
Because OCD can affect productivity, it might limit your ability to work and make money in the first place. OCD can be time- and energy-consuming, which can impact your work performance.
Cost of obsessions and compulsions
Carrying out your obsessions can be costly. For example, if you’re using excessive amounts of cleaning materials because of contamination OCD, costs can add up.
Obsessions can sometimes be tied to a belief that if they buy or don’t buy something, the person with OCD will manifest a bad event. To avoid causing a bad thing to happen and alleviate anxiety, someone with OCD might act on a compulsion to buy an item or items.
OCD treatment expenses
Lastly, OCD can be costly because therapy, medication, and in-patient treatment can be expensive. Read our article on what to do when you can’t afford therapy and free online mental health resources.
This isn’t to say that everyone with OCD has money problems, or that people with OCD are bad with money. The symptoms of OCD show up differently for different people, and while the disorder can affect your personal finances, this isn’t always the case.
Although extreme frugality is associated more with OCPD than OCD, people with either disorder might be prone to hoarding. This can include hoarding money, if money relates to their obsessions or compulsions.
Is frugality a common symptom of OCD?
Frugality isn’t a formal symptom of OCD. Some people with OCD might be extremely frugal, and the two may be linked.
Being frugal isn’t cause for alarm. But it might be time to speak with a therapist if you:
- go to extremes to save money
- feel distressed when you need to spend money
- forgo necessities to save money, even when you don’t need to
- try to control others’ spending
- have a deeply perfectionistic mindset
OCD can take on different “themes.” For example, someone who has obsessions about cleanliness might have contamination OCD. Someone who has upsetting, intrusive thoughts about hurting themselves might have harm OCD. People can experience multiple types of OCD.
Similarly, someone with OCD can have obsessions and compulsions about money.
For example, you might worry that you’re a bad person because you have disposable income while others don’t (which might relate to moral OCD, a kind of scrupulosity). Your compulsion might be to give away excessive amounts of money to ease your intrusive thoughts.
Another example might be that you fear you’ll run out of money. When you purchase non-necessities, you might have intrusive thoughts about your debt getting out of control, or about having emergencies that you’ll need money for. Your compulsion might be to save excessively and spend a great deal of time researching personal finances.
Money hoarding and OCD
As mentioned earlier, money hoarding (or extreme frugality) is associated more with OCPD than OCD.
People with OCD can hoard money. However, if hoarding money is an OCD compulsion, they’ll probably experience it as distressing instead of believing it’s necessary.
If OCD is causing or contributing to money problems, therapy is probably the best investment you can make.
Talk therapy is one of the most effective forms of OCD treatment. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is considered the first-line therapy for OCD. Research shows that
In some cases, people with OCD benefit from medication like serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs). You might also benefit from joining a support group and engaging in self-care strategies, like maintaining healthy habits and using stress-relief techniques.
Money coaching can help you change your mindset around money and build positive money habits. However, a money coach is not a substitute for a therapist. If OCD is at the root of your money problems, treatment for OCD is best for dealing with your issues at the source. Money coaching can help you sort out your personal finances once you’re in treatment.
OCD can affect your personal finances. For some people with OCD, excessive frugality feels necessary, while others might spend a great deal of money as a result of their OCD. Frugality can also be a symptom of OCPD.
If you think you have OCD or OCPD, psychotherapy can help you manage your symptoms and feel better. Both conditions can be treated. It is possible to manage your symptoms and create a happier, healthier relationship with money.