Is OCD An Anxiety Disorder? Learn if You Have OCD or Anxiety

Obsessive-compulsive disorder OCD and anxiety are two different mental health illnesses that share certain origins and treatments but differ in their symptoms. OCD and anxiety can coexist in the same person. Continue reading to learn more about the link between these two conditions.

If you know about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and the anxiety that comes with it, you may be curious about how anxiety is different from OCD. Is OCD an anxiety disorder? If so, how do these two diseases connect? Let’s look at the link between OCD and worry without looking at it from the point of view of an OCD therapist.

People often ask this question when they talk about OCD. There are some things that OCD and worry have in common, but they are not the same thing. Both diseases involve concern, but the main difference is how people deal with their anxious feelings. Individuals diagnosed with OCD not only experience anxiety but also do unwanted actions over and over again to try to ease their pain. People who are dealing with anxiety, on the other hand, may want to escape their problems but don’t usually do obsessive routines as a way to do so.

What is Anxiety Disorder?

According to The National Institute on Mental Health, periodic anxiety is a standard component of life. When faced with a challenge at work, before a test, or before making a crucial decision, you could experience anxiety. However, anxiety disorders involve more than just passing apprehension or terror.

Anxiety and depression difference: It’s critical to get anxiety treatment as soon as possible since, for someone with an anxiety condition, the anxiety does not go away and can worsen over time. The symptoms might affect daily tasks like work performance, academic progress, and interpersonal connections. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders are only a few of the several types of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety and depression difference: People with a generalized Anxiety disorder (GAD) display excessive Anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about many things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances. Fear and Anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of their life, such as social interactions, school, and work. 

What’s the Difference Between Anxiety and OCD?

Let’s begin by defining these two distinct diagnoses.

Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that are linked to anxiety-related diseases. 18% of people in the US have a severe mental illness, making it the most common mental illness in the country. The term “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” (GAD) is often used to describe people who have anxiety disorders. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, GAD is marked by excessive and ongoing worry about some different problems that lasts for more than six months and is accompanied by at least three physical symptoms. Nervousness, irritability, or edginess, as well as hyperventilation, rapid breathing, trembling, stomach problems, and a faster heart rate are some of these signs.

On the other hand, people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) deal with unwanted, persistent thoughts, urges, or impulses that make them do things over and over again to ease the discomfort these thoughts cause. For instance, someone with OCD might have strong, uncontrollable thoughts that they will get sick when they touch other people, which causes them a lot of stress. To deal with their nervousness, they might become obsessed with showering carefully after public appearances and wearing gloves everywhere.

In a similar situation, someone with anxiety might worry irrationally that they will get sick when they leave the house. Still, they don’t usually avoid social situations or take repeated showers. Anxiety may feel like the same thing, but in OCD it leads to compulsive behaviors that people do over and over again.

Here’s a table summarizing their Differences:

ClassificationObsessive-Compulsive and Related ConditionsAnxiety Disorder
Related ConditionsBody dysmorphic disorder, hoarding disorder, trichotillomania, etc.Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, etc.
Diagnostic ChangeReclassified in 2013Remains classified as an anxiety disorder
Core FeaturesInvolves obsessions and compulsionsPrimarily characterized by excessive and often irrational fear or anxiety
Brain Chemistry and FunctionSignificantly differentVariations in brain chemistry and function exist
Underlying MechanismsUnique underlying mechanismsDistinct mechanisms warranting separate categories
The Difference between OCD and Anxiety

What Makes OCD not an Anxiety Disorder

Notably, both Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) used to be thought of as anxiety disorders. But when the fifth version of the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) came out in 2013, it marked a significant change. The DSM is a reference book that doctors use all the time. Going by the new classification, GAD is still considered an anxiety condition, but OCD is now in its category called “Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Conditions.” This group includes several linked disorders, such as body dysmorphic disorder, hoarding disorder, and trichotillomania, which is also known as hair pulling.

The decision to make OCD a separate diagnosis came from realizing that brain chemistry and behavior are very different between these conditions. Both GAD and OCD are marked by persistent and unwanted thoughts, images, and urges that cause worry or fear. However, the underlying mechanisms and symptoms of these disorders are different, which is why they are classified in various diagnostic groups.

In summary:

  • Historically, GAD and OCD were both considered anxiety disorders.
  • In 2013, the DSM reclassified them.
  • GAD remains an anxiety disorder, while OCD is now in its category.
  • OCD is distinct from anxiety due to differences in brain chemistry and function.
  • Separate classes are based on these variations.

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