Distinguishing OCD from Other Conditions: Is It OCD or Something Else?

There are several other mental health disorders with overlapping symptoms similar to OCD. Here’s a list of some of the most similar disorders.

Anxiety disorders

OCD and anxiety disorders have many similarities. In fact, until recently, OCD was classified as an anxiety disorder in the DSM-5.

Anxiety disorders are common, with an estimated 31.1% of American adults experiencing an anxiety disorder in their lifetimes. Anxiety disorders include:

Anxiety is a major component of OCD. Obsessive thoughts drive anxiety, and it’s common to engage in compulsions in an attempt to relieve feelings of anxiety.

A key feature of OCD that isn’t present in anxiety disorders — is engaging in compulsions that take up a significant amount of time, such as more than 1 hour a day, cause distress, and get in the way of your work or social life.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, an OCD diagnosis requires “obsessions and/or compulsions that are time-consuming (more than 1 hour a day), cause significant distress, and impair work or social functioning.”

Depression

OCD is a highly distressing mental health condition. It can have severe impacts on your personal, social, work life, and overall quality of life.

According to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), because obsessions and compulsions are so difficult to deal with, many people with OCD also meet the diagnostic criteria for depression.

The symptoms of depression can include:

  • feeling down for 2 weeks or more
  • losing pleasure in usual activities
  • experiencing fatigue or tiredness
  • having trouble eating or sleeping
  • experiencing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

If you suspect you are living with both depression and OCD, a mental health professional can help you create a treatment plan that helps with both conditions.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

Despite having similar-sounding names, OCPD is very different from OCD.

Like with OCD, people with OCPD experience obsessions, such as cleanliness and organization, spending hours cleaning one area or reorganizing something until they believe it’s perfect.

The biggest difference is that people with OCD generally acknowledge that their obsessive thoughts and compulsions are unrealistic and excessive but are still unable to settle their anxious thoughts or break out of the cycle of worrying and ruminating.

People with OCPD don’t tend to recognize that their obsessions and compulsions are unrealistic, seeing them as rational.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a complex chronic mental health condition that can be confused with OCD.

There are several symptoms that must be present for a schizophrenia diagnosis, but the three primary symptoms are:

  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • speech patterns that are erratic and disorganized

Delusions in schizophrenia mean that someone perceives and believes a false reality. They believe things about the world around them that aren’t real.

On the other hand, someone with OCD can have unrealistic thoughts, but they’re aware that their thoughts aren’t grounded in reality. While they may feel like something unrealistically bad could happen, they know it’s actually irrational and impossible.

People with schizophrenia, though, believe the delusion is real, no matter how unbelievable it sounds to others.

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