Can OCD Make You Angry?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is marked by a cycle of unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) and can cause a wide range of symptoms in patients. If you or a loved one has OCD, these symptoms likely include bouts of anger or rage. You’re not alone in this: One small study found that 50% of patients with OCD experience anger attacks.
So, is anger a symptom of OCD? Does living with OCD cause one to become angry? There are quite a few reasons why you may experience anger alongside your OCD.
What causes anger in OCD patients?
Some of the most common reasons for anger occurring in people with OCD may include:
- Reactions to medication
- Constant stress and anxiety
- Frustration with living with OCD and its symptoms
- Compulsions being interrupted or done incorrectly
One of the main characteristics of OCD is a seemingly never-ending sense of uncertainty. Compulsions are often performed to gain a sense of control over one’s obsessions and possible foreboding events, but these actions typically only offer temporary relief. Understandably, it can be extremely frustrating to feel a lack of control in life and to feel as if something terrible is always around the corner. This can lead to bouts of anger or rage that can be scary — both for the person experiencing it and their loved ones.
If someone is performing compulsions and is interrupted, this may also trigger an anger attack. In this case, the anger may be directed specifically at the person who caused the interruption, which may put a strain on interpersonal relationships.
Similarly, if you are enacting compulsions and it feels like they are never quite right, that may lead to a bout of intense anger. Because someone with OCD often feels like something terrible will happen if they don’t perform their compulsions, they can become extremely fearful if their compulsions aren’t going as expected. This fear can quickly spiral into rage, even if it doesn’t have a specific target.
Is OCD anger manageable?
When someone with OCD experiences anger or rage, it can be scary and may make them or their loved ones feel unsafe. These bouts can include screaming, hitting, throwing objects, attacking oneself or others and more. It’s easy to understand why these anger attacks occur, but it’s not as easy to feel like they are manageable.
The good news is that anger that coincides with OCD is absolutely manageable through the overall treatment of OCD. In most cases, once the OCD is under better control, the anger will diminish or disappear entirely. If you’re looking for treatment for your OCD — and any related anger you might be experiencing — the best option is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.
Commonly referred to as the “gold standard” of treatment for OCD, ERP therapy helps patients become more tolerant of the uncertainty they feel by being exposed to things that trigger their obsessions in a controlled environment. The goal of ERP therapy is to allow for the intrusive thoughts to occur while simultaneously resisting one’s compulsions.
As someone with OCD learns to better endure the uncertainty their disorder causes them, they may feel less overall frustration. Furthermore, as they increase the amount they become more resistant to the urges to engage in compulsions, it can help reduce the occurrence of anger from compulsions being interrupted or going poorly.
If you or a loved one is ready to manage anger associated with OCD, schedule a free call with the NOCD clinical team. Once matched with a therapist, NOCD clients can begin treatment from the comfort of their home through video sessions or phone calls. With ERP-licensed therapists available nationwide, you can be well on your way to finding freedom from the endless cycle of obsessions and compulsions — and any anger you might be experiencing as well — once and for all.
Keara E. Valentine, Psy.D., is a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine in the OCD and Related Disorders Track, where she specializes in the assessment and treatment of OCD and related disorders. Dr. Valentine utilizes behavioral-based therapies including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) with children, adolescents, and adults experiencing anxiety-related disorders.
- ERP Therapy
NOCD Therapists specialize in treating OCDView all therapists
Licensed Therapist, MA
I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.
Licensed Therapist, LCMHC
When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.
Licensed Therapy, LMHC
I've been a licensed counselor since 2013, having run my private practice with a steady influx of OCD cases for several years. Out of all the approaches to OCD treatment that I've used, I find Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy to be the most effective. ERP goes beyond other methods and tackles the problem head-on. By using ERP in our sessions, you can look forward to better days ahead.