How is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Different from Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that causes a person to experience uncontrollable and recurring thoughts or behaviors, even when they know they are excessive. While some thoughts and behaviors related to OCD are anxiety-induced, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) causes a person to worry without engaging in obsessive or compulsive behaviors to cope.

The main differences between OCD and GAD depend on three criteria: the content of anxiety, the adhesiveness of thoughts, and if compulsive behavior is involved. OCD and GAD can significantly interfere with a person’s daily responsibilities, work or school performance, and relationships.

How OCD Can Affect a Person’s Life

When a person who suffers from OCD tries to stop their obsessive behavior or compulsions, feelings of distress and anxiety can increase, heightening the urge to perform the obsession or compulsive behavior, which amplifies anxiety. The impulsive feelings keep coming back and can lead to more ritualistic behavior. According to the Mayo Clinic, “OCD, usually considered a lifelong disorder, can have mild to moderate symptoms or be so severe and time-consuming that it becomes disabling.”

Some obsessive symptoms can include:

  • Fear of germs
  • Urge to have things orderly and neat
  • Aggressive and unwanted thoughts
  • Intense stress when objects are not orderly or facing a certain way
  • Strong desire to follow a strict routine or ritual
  • Need to check and re-check, such as locking doors or turning off stove
  • Excessive hand washing or cleaning

OCD symptoms can worsen with increased stress. An individual with OCD might turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve symptoms, increasing the risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD).

What Causes OCD?

OCD leads to repeated, continuous, and redundant thoughts, urges, or intrusive images and causes anguish or anxiety. Symptoms vary in severity and can begin in early childhood. Routines and rituals are normal and can help stabilize a child’s expectations and worldview; however, when a child has OCD, obsessive thoughts and compulsive habits become severe and interfere with daily activities, relationships, and typical development.

The exact cause of OCD is unknown; however, OCD tends to run in families; it can be caused by genetics. In some cases, streptococcal, a type of bacteria, can lead to infections and may trigger OCD or make it worse.

OCD is a brain problem that results from not having enough serotonin in the brain. Individuals who were emotionally, physically, or sexually abused or experienced other trauma are susceptible to OCD. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges and substance use disorders are also linked to OCD.

How GAD Can Affect a Person’s Life

Anxiety is normal. It helps us get out of harm’s way and prepare for important events. It warns us when we need to take action. However, if you have persistent, irrational, and overwhelming anxiety that interferes with daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.

People with GAD experience persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worries that go on every day, possibly all day. They feel it’s beyond their control. People with GAD also often expect the worst, even when there is no reason for any concern. Their worrying occurs on more days than not for at least six months and often concerns health, family, money, or work. The exaggerated, unrelenting worrying interferes with everyday living. Physical symptoms often accompany it and include restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating. However, despite the anxiety, those who suffer from GAD do not engage in obsessive and compulsive behavior.

GAD can affect all areas of life, including social, work, school, and family. According to a national survey conducted by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, seven out of ten people with GAD agreed their chronic anxiety impacted their relations with spouses or significant others. Two-thirds also reported that GAD harmed their friendships.

What Causes GAD?

The exact cause for GAD is unknown. Scientists believe that biological factors, family background, and life experiences are all involved. Stress can also play a factor in developing GAD. Even the stress of positive events, such as buying a new house, can trigger symptoms in those predisposed to the disorder.

Treatment for OCD and GAD

A doctor may prescribe medication, or the patient may need a combination of different types of psychotherapy, medication, or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to effectively treat OCD symptoms. OCD can co-occur with other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and SUD.

At Achieve Concierge, our clinicians may recommend a combination of CBT, mindfulness exercises, medications, and other therapies to treat GAD. In doing so, we help our patients discover the best ways to manage their anxiety symptoms.

A well-balanced, healthy lifestyle can help ease symptoms of anxiety and OCD-related compulsions and fear. OCD and GAD can interfere with work or school performance, interrupt relationships, and negatively impact home life. OCD and GAD are treatable, and most people benefit from medication, psychotherapy, and CBT. Our compassionate medical staff at Achieve Concierge is dedicated to the best option for your needs. At Achieve Concierge, we offer treatment to help you manage obsessive thoughts and compulsions. We offer same-day appointments in person and telemedicine appointments if you prefer to stay at home due to COVID-19 protocols. We take a holistic approach to treatment and believe in treating you as a whole person. Our members experience a continuum of care that addresses not only healing for the mind but the body and spirit as well. We want to help you determine the best course of action to treat your OCD or GAD symptoms. To discover more about our services, call us at (619) 393-5871.

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