OCD is challenging on its own, but many people in the OCD community are also struggling with other mental health concerns, also referred to as “comorbidities.” Sometimes, OCD treatment can improve symptoms of these comorbid conditions. Other times, however, comorbid conditions can prevent OCD treatment from being effective and will require targeted care of their own. Considering that research shows that the overwhelming majority of individuals with OCD also struggle with at least one comorbid mental health diagnosis, it’s clear that this care is important.
At NOCD, we believe that vitally important care should be easy to get, and we want to help make that happen. That’s why we’ve expanded the NOCD network to provide therapy services for OCD and co-occurring mood disorders, anxiety disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), all in one place.
We’re proud to provide the OCD community with this care, to bring attention to why it’s so important, and to share what you can expect from treatment for OCD and co-occurring conditions with NOCD.
Why NOCD Therapists are treating OCD and co-occurring conditions
We’re committed to offering deeper, more personalized, evidence-based care—care that treats the whole person—and in order to do that, we have to address other issues affecting the OCD community. Like OCD, these co-occurring conditions can have a profound impact on a person’s well-being, can be misunderstood, and may lead to severe negative outcomes if left untreated.
However, these conditions are all treatable—and with the help of a qualified specialist, they can be treated either at the same time as OCD, or before/after treatment for OCD, depending on each person’s unique needs. Some NOCD Therapists are cross-trained in evidence-based treatments for these conditions, allowing us to provide effective, convenient, and affordable care for both OCD and conditions that frequently occur alongside it.
Treatment for OCD and anxiety disorders
It’s been estimated that 30% of people with OCD also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Other anxiety disorders, like social anxiety disorder and panic disorder, are also common, occurring in 18% and 12% of people with OCD respectively.
For people suffering from comorbid anxiety disorders, feelings of worry, fear, or apprehension are excessive and persistent, may be accompanied by panic attacks, and can make it difficult to maintain a healthy and fulfilling life—just like the symptoms of OCD.
NOCD Therapists are equipped to help our members manage the distress of both OCD and anxiety using types of evidence-based exposure therapy. For example, someone struggling with panic disorder will benefit from their NOCD Therapist guiding them through interoceptive exposure therapy, which helps people better tolerate and cope with bothersome anxiety-related bodily sensations. Depending on a member’s needs, their therapist may also pair supplemental cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies with ERP.
Treatment for OCD and mood disorders
About 25% to 50% of people with OCD also meet the diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode, according to the IOCDF. Depression often presents through persistent sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, decreased energy, and incessant negative thoughts, but sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating are a few of its many other possible symptoms.
Depression and OCD can both operate in a cycle. When people are depressed, they often withdraw from activities that used to bring them joy or fulfillment, which only perpetuates their low mood. Depression can also interfere with ERP for OCD. Behavioral Activation (BA), the primary treatment for depression, can help people overcome this obstacle and break the cycle of depression.
Like ERP, BA helps people understand their current behaviors and how they can practice more rewarding ones that help them feel better over time. If the idea of doing two different treatments feels like learning two different languages to you, we’ve got good news: it’s not at all! BA is very similar to ERP, so pairing the two treatments is an effective hybrid approach to tackling both depression and OCD.
Treatment for OCD and PTSD
Research indicates a clear connection between OCD and trauma. Studies show that 54% of people diagnosed with OCD have experienced at least one traumatic life event, and between 30-82% have a trauma history. Trauma is a psychological or emotional response to a disturbing, distressing, or harmful experience that can come from a single event, multiple events, or prolonged exposure to stressful or dangerous situations.
Experiencing trauma may cause an individual to develop PTSD, a mental health disorder characterized by flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares, and avoidance of anything that reminds a person of their traumatic experiences. It’s estimated that 25% of people with OCD also suffer from PTSD.
In some cases, PTSD may make it difficult to engage in exposures. We’ve ensured our therapists are equipped to help our members navigate this with training in Prolonged Exposure (PE), a clinically effective form of therapy for PTSD. For NOCD Members struggling with PTSD, treatment will work to address trauma and manage flashbacks, nightmares, and other distressing PTSD symptoms through PE, before transitioning to treating OCD with ERP.
Treatment for OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
BDD and OCD share several similarities and frequently occur at the same time, according to research indicating that up to 78% of people with BDD also have OCD. The reverse is also fairly common, with up to 12% of people with OCD also having BDD.
Like OCD, unwanted negative thoughts and emotions are a common characteristic of BDD—with the key difference being that in people with BDD, these thoughts focus on their appearance and perceived physical flaws or defects. Compulsive behaviors like mirror checking or appearance “fixing” can also be BDD symptoms. The distress of BDD is significant, and can disrupt how people see themselves.
Perhaps the most important similarity between these conditions is that ERP can effectively treat them both. NOCD Therapists may also utilize other forms of therapy for BDD, as BDD responds incredibly well to CBT modalities. Depending on a member’s individual needs, their treatment may involve CBT techniques like cognitive restructuring and perceptual training.
How to get care for OCD and co-occurring conditions
If you’re struggling with OCD and symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, or BDD, or know someone who may be dealing with these conditions, we can help. To learn more about receiving treatment for co-occurring conditions alongside OCD, you can book a free 15-minute call with our team.
On your call, we can answer any questions you might have about treatment for OCD and co-occurring conditions and help you get matched with a NOCD Therapist who’s trained to provide the treatment you need.