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What is the Connection Between OCD and Fear?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and fear are closely linked. A form of anxiety disorder, OCD is usually associated with fear and in some cases, people with this condition develop phobias. OCD is treatable with medications and therapy. Although people have this condition for life, they can manage it and address some of the more disruptive aspects of OCD.

People with OCD develop obsessions, often rooted in fear, and use coping methods known as compulsions or rituals to manage them. The link between OCD and fear starts with the development of obsessions. People may start to develop obsessions about things like making sure the stove is turned off before leaving the house or securing the windows before going to bed at night. These obsessions are based on a fear of something happening, like the house catching on fire or someone breaking in at night.

Obsessions are managed by following a precise series of steps, or acting out a compulsion or ritual. Sometimes compulsions can become extremely complex and in some people with OCD, they may not always be directly related to an obsession. Often, they get more complex over time. OCD and fear feed off each other, as the patient develops new obsessions and compulsions for managing them. People with OCD also fear the intrusive thoughts associated with compulsions. These thoughts can be disturbing and violent and they are impossible to control.

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People with OCD can develop other anxiety disorders, as well as conditions like depression. Recognizing the connection between OCD and fear, doctors treating patients with OCD are careful to address all fears patients express in sessions, even if they seem minor. Failing to discuss something can result in the development of a new obsession and associated compulsions. However, it is important to understand that OCD is not caused by fear. OCD and fear are linked because people with OCD are more susceptible to fears.

There are a variety of ways to manage OCD. Some patients benefit from taking medications, including anti-anxiety medications to address their OCD and fear. Antidepressants may be used in treatment as well. Therapy with a mental health professional can be beneficial, offering patients an opportunity to work through obsessions in a safe and controlled environment. Patients can develop a treatment plan for avoiding or controlling compulsions and work on coping skills for managing obsessions. Patients with OCD can also develop symptoms like panic attacks that may need to be managed with medications, breathing exercises, and other treatment tools.

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