OCD and loneliness often occur together. If you live with both, you may wish things could be different.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) features both recurring and uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions) and the urge to repeat certain behaviors (compulsions). It can be a chronic condition.
Sometimes people with OCD avoid situations that trigger their obsessions. For example, they might avoid other people if they fear germs and contamination. This social isolation could then lead to depression.
If you are living with OCD and are feeling lonely due to your condition, there are coping strategies you can try that may make things easier.
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In fact, the research revealed that higher OCD symptoms tended to be associated with more feelings of loneliness. They also found that women with high obsessive-compulsive symptoms were particularly impacted by loneliness.
OCD often leads to self-isolation. Managing obsessions and masking compulsions can be exhausting. As a result, it’s often easier to avoid other people and potential triggers.
Obsessions and compulsions can be time-consuming, too. For some people living with OCD, rituals take up most of their days and leave little time for a social life.
In fact, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the diagnostic criteria for OCD requires that obsessions and/or compulsions must consume more than one hour per day and impair work or social functioning.
There’s research linking OCD with social isolation. A 2022 study with 102 participants found that social isolation and alienation were higher in people with OCD than the control group.
If you live with OCD and think you may be experiencing depression, it’s worth speaking with a doctor. Depression is treatable, and it’s common with OCD.
OCD can be harder to treat when it occurs with depression. One reason might be that when the two conditions occur together, OCD symptoms are sometimes more pronounced.
However, there’s still effective support available to make things easier. Also, it can help to remember that you’re not alone.
- obsessions and compulsions
- poor insight
- stressful life events
- depressive symptoms
- rumination (focusing on sad thoughts)
- dampening (suppressing or downplaying positive feelings)
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available
You can access free support right away with these resources:
- 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.Call the Lifeline at 988 for English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The Crisis Text Line.Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
- Veterans Crisis Line.Call 988 and press 1, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
- Deaf Crisis Line.Call 321-800-3323, text “HAND” to 839863, or visit their website.
- Befrienders Worldwide.This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
Genetics and co-occurring mental health issues are two of the factors that increase a person’s chance for both OCD and depression.
Research also links OCD to stressful life events. A 2020 study featuring 281 people with OCD found that 61.2% had a history of stressful life events, and 34% experienced a traumatic event before OCD onset.
It can feel like a no-win situation. Going out and connecting with people can trigger your OCD but staying home and self-isolating can lead to loneliness and depression.
However, there are coping strategies that can help.
If you’re not already participating in treatment, you can start by having a conversation with your doctor.
Therapy and medication can be effective treatments for both OCD and depression.
An often-successful therapy for both is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Additionally, a specific type of CBT you can try for OCD is exposure response prevention therapy (ERPT). ERPT can help you reduce your anxiety around certain obsessions, such as germs.
Examples of depression medications that doctors prescribe include antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). More choices are available if these types of medications don’t work for you.
Doctors also prescribe SSRI medication for OCD, and just like with depression, there are several choices available.
Prioritizing self care can help you feel better. Areas to focus on include:
- healthy diet
- consistent and restorative sleep
- regular exercise
- stress reduction
- enjoyable hobbies
If it feels overwhelming to overhaul your life, start in one area. Choose something that doesn’t trigger your OCD or ask your therapist for suggestions or guidance.
OCD and depression can make it harder to have a social life, which may be why you’re experiencing loneliness.
It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing scenario, though. Take small steps, like one phone call or video chat each week with a friend or family member.
Texting and social media are two other examples of ways to connect with friends that don’t involve potentially upsetting in-person contact.
You may also want to share your feelings about OCD, depression, and loneliness with someone you trust. You might be pleasantly surprised at what a supportive ally a trusted friend or family member can be.
OCD is characterized by obsessions and compulsions, which are time-consuming rituals. It can be stressful and exhausting, leading many people with this condition to self-isolate to make coping easier. This can lead to loneliness.
OCD often occurs with depression as well as loneliness. The more pronounced your OCD traits are, the higher your chance of also experiencing depression.
However, OCD and depression are both treatable. As you get support to manage both conditions, your social life can improve, and your loneliness may subside.
If you’re interested in trying therapy, the first step is speaking with a doctor who can give you more information. Or you can find a therapist online:
- The American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator
- The American Psychiatric Association’s Find a Psychiatrist
Visit Psych Central’s Depression and OCD resource hubs for more information and resources.