OCD vs. Anxiety: The Differences Explained


People often get their wires crossed when it comes to telling OCD and anxiety apart, and that’s because of their overlapping similarities.


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OCD vs. Anxiety: The Differences Explained

People often get their wires crossed when it comes to telling OCD and anxiety apart, and that’s because of their overlapping similarities.

You’ve probably come across these questions: “Is OCD an anxiety disorder?” or “Can anxiety turn into OCD?”

Keep reading this article to gain clarity on the distinguishing aspects of these mental health conditions.

What Is Anxiety and What Causes It?

Think of anxiety as a huge box with many little compartments or rooms in it. These rooms can be divided into the anxiety disorder box, the panic disorder box, the social anxiety disorder box, and so on.

Anxiety symptoms include chronic worrying, being gripped by fear, and apprehension.

What leads to anxiety?

  • Your genes: Find out if your family history consists of anxiety disorders. If it does, it could point to you being more likely to develop anxiety.
  • Your environment: This includes your childhood, your relationships, and your experiences throughout life.
  • Your personal experiences: Look into your experiences. Traumatic ones like abuse, neglect, abandonment, and the passing of a loved one may trigger anxiety.

What Is OCD and What Causes It?

On a base level, OCD is identified by ongoing unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive compulsions. Some factors that may lead to OCD include:

  • Genetic factors: Similar to anxiety, genetic makeup can onset OCD.
  • Your brain: Inconsistencies in some parts of your brain can lead to the development of the disorder. These irregularities usually involve impulse control and decision making.
  • Your environment: Like anxiety, environmental factors like traumatic events and chronic stress can trigger or worsen OCD symptoms.

While anxiety and OCD may have different underlying causes, they often coexist.

The Distinguishing Characteristics between Anxiety and OCD

Each condition has different characteristics to help you distinguish them. Here they are below.

1) Focus of attention

Anxiety disorders often involve a broader range of worries and fears that may not be linked to specific actions or rituals.

It contrasts with OCD, where people are prone to hyperfocus on specific thoughts or fears, which progresses to compulsive behaviors.

2) Specificity of triggers

As we’ve established, anxiety disorders can be initiated by a wider range of situations or events than OCD, and the triggers may not always be specific or linked to an obsession or compulsion.

An OCD attack is often triggered by specific thoughts, images, or situations that provoke anxiety.

3) Impact on daily life

Both anxiety and OCD can significantly impact daily life but in distinct ways.

Anxiety causes you to feel constantly on edge and is coupled with physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat or sweating.

OCD tends to consume a significant amount of time and energy because people with this condition feel compelled to perform their rituals.

Differences in Treatment for OCD vs. Anxiety

Treatments for OCD and anxiety have differences. Learn which treatments are better suited to which condition.

OCD treatment: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapy uses exposure and response prevention (ERP), which means gradually exposing the person to their fears or obsessions and then putting measures in place to prevent their usual compulsive response.

Anxiety treatment: exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is beneficial in treating anxiety. It usually involves the following:

  • Incrementally exposing the affected person to the feared situation or object
  • Creating a safe environment that allows them to confront their fears
  • Letting individuals know they have full support from various parties

OCD treatment: medication

In some cases, medication may be prescribed alongside therapy for OCD. A qualified mental health practitioner may prescribe the right medication for you after a thorough assessment.

Medication can boost your brain’s serotonin levels, which will help calm your OCD symptoms and bring them down to a more manageable level.

Anxiety treatment: medication

Doctors may also prescribe medication to treat anxiety disorders. In fact, it may be required when the symptoms are severe.

But for both anxiety and OCD, medication alone may not work forever. They’re best used together with therapy.

Neurospa Is Here to Help

With the benefit of the most progressive treatments for various mental health disorders, our team at Neurospa is here to help you through your mental health journey. 

Neurospa will first assess your needs in detail. Only after that will you get a safe, tailored treatment for your specific mental health condition. You can put your mind at ease knowing that the best mental health experts are in your corner.

Schedule an appointment with our Neurospa team to start the journey towards change today.


Are You in Crisis?

In times of crisis, your safety and well-being are of utmost importance. If you or someone you know is struggling with active thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please remember that help is available. Reach out to emergency services immediately by dialing 911, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) for compassionate support, guidance, and resources. Remember, you are not alone, and there are people who care and want to help you through this difficult time.

Why Neurospa is the Best Choice for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Treatment

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses a magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. This treatment has been found to be effective in treating a variety of conditions such as depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.

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