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  • Douglas Zimmerman

OCD As An Anxiety Disorder

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

In 2013, OCD was removed from the DSM, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an anxiety disorder. What? Yes, in my mind, it’s very much an anxiety disorder. That is, when one is overwhelmed by life and stress; and, well, various anxieties, OCD is often triggered. It becomes a bad coping mechanism. Perseverating on one thought or doing compulsions is a way that a person feels they can manage their anxiety.


It’s a way the OCD person feels they can contain the stress. And for a while it may work. But the problem is that the mind needs more and more obsessing and compulsions to feel okay. Therein starts the endless search for that click in one’s mind. The click is that “just right” feeling. Choose your metaphor: Chasing the dragon, going down a rabbit hole, throwing good money after bad – it’s an endless cycle.


The person suffering from the chase and dodge, the repetitions, the ongoing search for peace, must ultimately come to a place of acceptance that these annoying thoughts can be present while still living one’s life. The great antidote to OCD is to live fully.


The nice catch here, is that by living, even when the click is not there, when the just right feeling cannot be felt, is that in time there will be a different kind of just right feeling; in fact, the feeling might be one of peace, good enough, and okay. It may not be what you are searching for, but it will be what you need. It’s a different way to look at and live life. It’s not easy to describe; it’s often ineffable – but if I may, it’s a way of slowing things down and relating to the world in a different manner.


A person phones me and asks if I’m an anxiety therapist? “I suppose,” I reply, “can you tell me more?” It’s from there I can discern how they manage their anxiety… Often one does not manage it by compulsions or obsessing, and we can certainly work on that. But often, I hear about an over investment in certain thoughts and behaviors. From there we do the work of finding one’s values and detangling where values have become corrupted, such as under valuing the body’s ability to fend off disease – such as a person who upon getting off of a subway in NYC and upon getting home, the person disrobes and showers for two hours to cleanse themselves. One might hear, “Yes, but the subway is dirty and filled with germs!” I’d argue back the whole world is filled with germs.


I’m not insensitive to a person suffering and I certainly am not making light of the real truth about germs and sickness, but I certainly would challenge one’s over protection as a means to live; for, I’d ask, at what price are you living? And is this anxiety a disorder?


The good news is, there is treatment available! There is ERP and general talk therapy, there are medications, there are both. In time, often, OCD does not win; and in time, one can live again. With a whole other just right feeling!

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