Tired all the time? Obsessions and compulsions that come with OCD can be exhausting. Here’s why.
Mental conditions can affect your energy levels, and obsessive-compulsive disorder is no exception. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often find themselves feeling exhausted and fatigued.
Although exhaustion isn’t in the diagnostic criteria for OCD, it can be a usual consequence of obsessions and compulsions. Having OCD can be mentally draining, and carrying out compulsions can sometimes be physically draining, too.
Although fatigue is not a part of the diagnostic criteria for OCD, many people with OCD often feel exhausted. This is understandable, as the symptoms of OCD can be draining.
Obsessions, which are persistent, upsetting, and intrusive thoughts and images, can be tiring, especially when your OCD is triggered. Intrusive, upsetting thoughts can leave you feeling fatigued, especially if they keep you up at night.
Similarly, compulsions can be depleting. For example, if you have a compulsion to check every lock and window 10 times before leaving the house, that requires time and energy. After you’ve left the house, you might feel drained because of the stress of the compulsion.
Also, if you resist the compulsion — for instance if you’re undergoing treatment for OCD and you’re intent on not engaging in certain behaviors once your anxiety is triggered — the mental stress can be tiring.
There’s also a link between OCD and insomnia.
Research has shown that people with OCD are more likely to have insomnia than the rest of the population. In fact, one 2020 study noted that OCD is associated with a sevenfold increased odds of insomnia. High levels of intrusive thoughts, in particular, are linked to sleep disorders, according to a 2014 study.
Similarly, depression is linked to sleeplessness and exhaustion.
According to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), many people with OCD also have clinical depression, which can add to feelings of fatigue.
Is it common for people with OCD to feel exhausted? While few statistics answer this question, one 2015 study found a correlation between fatigue, including mental fatigue, and OCD.
Having OCD can be mentally taxing. Near-constant disturbing thoughts are often exhausting, especially if you haven’t started a treatment plan.
Similarly, carrying out compulsions — which can take hours a day — can exhaust you mentally and physically.
Feeling tired from time to time is common. However, it’s a good idea to seek medical help if you’re constantly experiencing exhaustion and fatigue.
Some signs that you’re exhausted can include:
- feelings of tiredness during the day
- difficulty concentrating or thinking
- trouble remembering details
- losing interest
If you’re experiencing the above symptoms and are unsure what’s causing them, you might benefit from speaking with a doctor.
Depending on the cause of your fatigue, there are a few ways to treat it. If you feel that OCD contributes to your fatigue, getting treatment for OCD, such as talk therapy (also known as psychotherapy), could be a good place to start.
OCD is typically treated via exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, which has been shown to be quite effective at treating OCD.
ERP is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that entails managing your obsessions without engaging in your compulsions. Still, other forms of therapy might also be helpful for OCD.
Medications are sometimes prescribed for the treatment of OCD. Your doctor might also prescribe something for your exhaustion, depending on what’s causing it. For example, if you’re experiencing insomnia, your doctor might suggest a prescription or over-the-counter sleep aid.
Although self-care isn’t always an adequate replacement for talk therapy, a few daily habits might help you cope with OCD and exhaustion. These self-care methods can help you get more sleep and manage OCD symptoms.
Getting enough sleep is essential to avoid fatigue. To improve your sleep quality, try to make your bedroom as conducive to sleep as possible. Some tips include:
- ensuring that you have a comfortable bed
- wearing comfortable pajamas
- making your bedroom an ideal temperature
- blocking out light (for example, with block-out curtains)
Other sleep hygiene tips can help you feel as rested as possible before bed. For example:
- exercising during the day
- avoiding screens for at least an hour before bed
- keeping a regular sleep schedule
- having a relaxing warm shower before bed
- avoiding alcohol and caffeine before you sleep
- doing a relaxing activity before bed, such as yoga or meditation
Although these activities won’t always soothe your obsessions or make it easier to avoid your compulsions, they can give you the best possible chance at having a good night’s rest.
There are also a few more general self-care strategies for OCD. Your self-care strategies will depend on your needs and what you enjoy. You might benefit from the following methods:
- managing stress by cutting down on responsibilities
- trying creative hobbies, like journaling or art
- exercising regularly, as exercise has been shown to help with OCD symptoms
- practicing mindfulness, which can reduce OCD symptoms when combined with ERP therapy, according to some
- trying yoga and meditation, which one
clinical trialconcluded is helpful for people with OCD
- connecting with supportive friends and family
Fatigue and exhaustion are common among people with OCD. Treatments like exposure and response prevention therapy can help you cope with OCD symptoms. Medication and self-care strategies might also help.
If you have OCD (or think you have OCD) and experience exhaustion, it’s a good idea to find a therapist you feel comfortable talking with. This is a great first step in addressing your fatigue.
You might also benefit from joining OCD support groups, which you can find through the IOCDF OCD support groups list.