Common Risk Factors For OCD

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Published on October 7th, 2021

Common Risk Factors For OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition that causes a person to suffer from obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions and compulsions are the primary symptoms of OCD. These symptoms are challenging to live with. The day-to-day lives of people with OCD are impaired by obsessions and compulsions. They cause significant anxiety and stress and impact a person’s ability to function in a number of ways.

Obsessions and compulsions cause stress for an affected person. They cause a person to have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Compulsive behaviors are used to manage obsessive thoughts. This causes a cycle of obsessions and compulsions to take over an affected person’s life. This cycle can impact an affected person’s ability to function. Areas of a person’s life that can be impacted by OCD include:

  • Being able to socialize comfortably
  • Making and maintaining relationships
  • Managing daily responsibilities
  • Achieving career and other long-term goals
  • Routines for self-care
  • Time management skills and ability to meet deadlines

Obsessive-compulsive disorder also can have an impact on a person’s self-esteem. A person with OCD may know that their obsessions are irrational and that their compulsions are taking up so much time in their days. Some people with OCD may also understand that their behaviors do not negate their obsessive thoughts. The challenge is that they struggle to use other methods of coping with the thoughts that cause them stress.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder also can have an impact on a person’s self-esteem. The feelings of helplessness that can come from OCD can impact a person’s self-image. They also can impact their ability to cope with stress. This can cause low self-esteem and insecurities about their mental wellness and how their behaviors look to others.

Risk Factors Of OCD

Some factors can put a person at increased risk of developing OCD. The risk of a person developing OCD depends on different factors, like family history, stress management skills, and overall mental health. Each of these components and more increases the risk of OCD.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a condition that can run in families, but people can develop OCD without a family history of the condition. Common risk factors of OCD include:

A Family History of OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can run in families. If a person has a family member who suffered from OCD they are at risk of suffering from OCD themselves. The condition may be passed through generations. This can be due to two possible reasons:

  1. The affected person is genetically predisposed to the condition. There is a genetic component to developing OCD. If OCD exists in one or several members of the person’s family, then they may inherit the condition from their genes.
  2. Family members of the affected person modeled behaviors of OCD. A person with OCD may have learned OCD behaviors from watching family members. This is especially the case for children who were raised by people with OCD or had regular interactions with people who also had OCD. Learning OCD behaviors can also come from people who suffered from high anxiety or a fear of germs.

Suffering From A Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorder

People who suffer from certain mental health disorders are at risk of suffering from OCD. This is especially the case for people who suffer from an anxiety disorder or a disorder that is related to OCD.

An anxiety disorder is a disorder in which a person suffers from significant anxiety. A person with an anxiety disorder suffers from excessive anxiety and fear. The anxiety and fear that come from an anxiety disorder can cause unhealthy behaviors and irrational thoughts. Anxiety disorders that can co-occur with OCD include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social anxiety

There are mental health disorders related to OCD. These disorders have similar behavior patterns and criteria for diagnosis, even if they are not the same condition. Disorders that are related to OCD fall under the category of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. Related disorders that can co-occur with OCD include:

  • Trichotillomania
  • Excoriation disorder
  • Hoarding disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder

Surviving Trauma

OCD can develop as an unhealthy way to cope with trauma. Having a history of trauma or abuse is another risk factor for OCD. People who have suffered trauma or abuse at some point in their lives may begin to show symptoms of OCD following the incident.

The term ‘trauma’ refers to the result of experiencing an event that causes extreme emotional distress. The term ‘abuse’ refers to repeated cruel or violent treatment of another person.

Trauma can stick with a person when not properly addressed. Symptoms of OCD can surface as a method of coping with trauma when it is left untreated. Common types of trauma include:

  • Physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse
  • Experiencing a life-threatening event
  • Being a survivor of an act of terror or violence

Trauma may also include experiences that were not coped with properly. This can be common in people who experienced bullying, disciplinary parents, chronic or untreated illness, unresolved grief and loss, or abandonment.

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