Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression are two very different disorders.
One is an anxiety disorder, while the other is a mood disorder. And yet, they do have a connection.
Many people with OCD also have depression.
Throughout this article, we’ll look at why this is the case and what it means for you.
Signs and Symptoms
There isn’t much overlap in the symptoms of depression and OCD.
People with OCD have intrusive thoughts, worries, and anxieties. They feel compelled to perform repetitive, ritualized behaviors in order to manage their anxiety.
Depression causes feelings of despair and hopelessness. People who suffer experience a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed.
Many with OCD Suffer from Depression
Even though depression and OCD are different in many ways, they have some things in common. Both disorders negatively impact people’s personal and social lives.
Both are capable of affecting a person’s ability to work, attend school, and participate in social events.
Depression and OCD often co-occur, though it is usually a one-way relationship. Around one-third of people with OCD also have depression at some point.
Around two-thirds of people with OCD will have at least one episode of major depression in their lifetime. However, people with depression (even severe depression) aren’t necessarily more likely to experience OCD.
Brain Chemistry Is Part of the Answer
Some researchers believe that OCD and depression might share a common genetic “diathesis.” This term means that the same genetic traits might be risk factors for both.
It’s likely that there are also biochemical factors involved in the relationship. Both OCD and depression are associated with changes in how the brain makes and uses serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which acts as a chemical “go-between” for nerve cells.
An imbalance in serotonin is associated with changes in brain chemistry and behavior; similar kinds of changes occur in both OCD and depression.
What does this mean? Having OCD may predispose someone to develop depression because OCD is a mental illness associated with the kind of chemical imbalance that causes depression.
This possibility agrees with the idea of having a common genetic diathesis. These disorders are associated with similar kinds of biochemical changes, which fits with the idea that the same genetic changes are involved in both.
The Stress of Living with OCD May Also Lead to Depression
Research on OCD and depression shows that people with OCD tend to develop depression after the onset of their anxiety disorder. It’s less common for someone to have depression and then later develop OCD.
This suggests that having OCD is itself a risk factor for related mental health disorders. And this may very well be the case. The stress of living with OCD, and the problems that people have as a result, maybe a depression trigger.
Dual diagnosis, later on, is a strong possibility, especially because most people with OCD have the disorder for a long time before they are correctly diagnosed.
A further issue is that many people with OCD experience stigma or discrimination due to their symptoms.
It seems likely that OCD sufferers—especially those with undiagnosed OCD—might have enough stress to trigger an episode of severe depression.
OCD Doesn’t Cause Depression, but They Are Related
The relationship between depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder might appear to be cause-and-effect, but this is not the case. Having OCD doesn’t cause depression.
After all, around one-third of people with OCD won’t have an episode of major depression in their lives. However, someone with OCD is much more likely to develop depression than someone who doesn’t have OCD.
As for the reason why this is the case, it’s likely to be a combination of factors. Firstly, having OCD is stressful. Living with that stress every day may contribute to the development of depression.
Secondly, having OCD means that a person’s brain chemistry is imbalanced in a way that increases depression risk.
This means that someone with OCD has a higher risk of depression for both psychological and biological reasons.
Why Is This Connection Important?
Understanding the connection between depression and OCD is important from a research standpoint. For research purposes, learning more about what causes different kinds of mental health problems can provide important clues about prevention and treatment.
In the case of OCD and depression, this is important, since the two disorders often occur together.
For people with OCD, it’s also important to be aware of the risk of depression. This awareness can help with getting mental health treatment if depression does become a problem.
Having Depression May Make OCD Treatment More Difficult
For someone with depression or OCD, moving forward with treatment is challenging. Both disorders require long-term treatment—including therapy—to prevent symptoms from worsening.
This can be a problem for people with depression because it’s harder to maintain a routine.
This means, for instance, that it’s harder to keep track of medication and other measures needed for recovery. It’s also harder to commit to therapy because people with depression are often stuck in the mindset that nothing they do will help.
For people who are having OCD treatment, this can be a problem. Therapy is typically a major component of treatment. Medication is important for many people, too.
Any gaps in treatment—including medication gaps—can lead to setbacks in progress. Because of this, people with both OCD and depression often need to focus on depression treatment first.
Once their depression symptoms are managed, they can focus on OCD treatment.
TMS Therapy May Help Where Medication Fails
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed for depression and OCD. However, medication isn’t suitable for everyone. Some people have intolerable side effects, while others don’t have any symptom improvement.
Another possibility is a newer treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This is a non-invasive treatment that works by stimulating parts of the brain that become dysfunctional.
TMS therapy has been shown to improve symptoms of both depression and OCD. For people living with OCD and depression, this treatment may provide relief from symptoms of both conditions at the same time.
TMS is FDA-approved for the treatment of OCD and depression.
TMS Therapy at Success TMS
Whether you’re living with depression, OCD, or both, TMS therapy may be able to help by reducing your symptoms to a manageable level. To learn more about TMS therapy, contact Success TMS today.