Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

What Are The Symptoms Of OCD and Social Anxiety? How To Deal With It?

3 min read
Patrick McGrath, PhD

A lot of people are shy, and we all fear public embarrassment. Social convention has such a strong pull on us that we all basically do the same stuff as everyone else most of the time, especially when we’re out in public. Nobody wants to mess up– and you probably know that painful experience of lying awake at night, reflecting on a social blunder you just made. Or maybe one from years back, as if junior high gym class were relevant again.

When social anxiety becomes chronic, though, it starts to shut us down. Joining an intramural sports team? Sharing your opinion with a group? Heading to a party with a few friends? They all sound kind of nice, but there’s way too big of a chance you could do something stupid.

Woman suffering from anxiety

However we label these things, the overlap between worrying excessively about social situations and having constant disturbing thoughts is clear. If you have what psychologists call obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you get intrusive thoughts, images, and urges and deal with them by repeatedly doing specific things that make you feel temporarily better. People with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) feel so much fear of being judged by others, even though they usually know it’s irrational, that they might avoid social gatherings altogether.

According to Healthline, SAD has a number of common physical symptoms:

  • blushing
  • nausea
  • excessive sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • difficulty speaking
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • rapid heart rate

These physical symptoms (prompted by extreme worry) and the worry itself work together to make social situations feel so unbearable that people start to avoid restaurants, public restrooms, conversations with strangers, shopping in person, and anything else that involves risk of embarrassment.

People with OCD are more prone to having SAD than the general population, and vice versa. Even though scientists don’t know the exact reason, we can begin to understand how closely linked the two conditions are. In both, persistent worry prompts intense physiological reactions and psychological distress; these lead to behaviors that help someone feel better for a while and are therefore reinforced. In the case of both OCD and SAD, one of the more common behaviors is avoidance.

Luckily, both OCD and SAD are treatable with SSRI medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or a combination. Exposure therapy can be particularly helpful for both conditions, because getting used to all of that worry tends to require putting oneself in the situations that cause them.

Many people deal with both SAD and OCD, and working with your clinician to identify what’s going on can help you decide on a treatment plan. The good news is that both conditions can usually be treated at the same time.

If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, schedule a free call today with the NOCD clinical team to learn more about how a licensed therapist can help. ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training.

Patrick McGrath, PhD

Dr. McGrath is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Chief Clinical Officer at NOCD. He is a member of the Scientific and Clinical Advisory Boards of the International OCD Foundation, a Fellow of the Association for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies, and the author of "The OCD Answer Book" and "Don't Try Harder, Try Different."

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Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp

Network Clinical Training Director

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.

Madina Alam

Madina Alam

Director of Therapist Engagement

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.

Andrew Moeller

Andrew Moeller

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.

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