Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

Can OCD Make You Angry?

By Keara Valentine3 min read
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.

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.

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 Valentine
WRITTEN BYKeara Valentine