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Changes in Mental Health and Mood

With much time and energy focused on ritualistic behaviors, mental health and moods may suffer. Individuals living with OCD may experience significant emotional distress, difficulty developing and maintaining relationships, difficulty attending school and work, and an overall poorer quality of life due to the time it takes to perform rituals.


According to the International OCD Foundation, one quarter to one half of people with OCD also meet diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode. OCD steals time from relationships, hobbies, school or work, and general life activities. When coping with OCD and depression, it can be increasingly difficult for patients to find the courage to seek treatment.


According to a 2020 peer-reviewed article, about 90% of people with OCD will also have anxiety disorders, mood disorders, impulse disorders, substance use disorders or other psychiatric conditions. Persistent, distressing thoughts and urges from OCD cause nerves to rise. As a person fights to control their mind and actions, anxiety increases.

Physical and Behavioral Effects

Beyond the mental health effects, those with OCD are at risk for behavioral effects, such as substance abuse and loss of sleep. These can lead to troubled relationships and an overall lessened quality of life.

Risk of Substance Abuse

With OCD and substance use alike, a person frequently completes an action (compulsion or using a substance) to temporarily find release. Unfortunately, once the effects wear off, the desire to do the action again intensifies. In addition to the similarities between OCD and substance use, social isolation and mental health effects from OCD can lead to seeking an escape in the form of alcohol or drugs.

Exhaustion and Loss of Sleep

Physical harm can occur as a result of compulsions, including contact dermatitis, repetitive strain injury, physical exhaustion; or from self-soothing behaviors, including biting nails, picking skin or pulling hair. The obsessions and compulsions may make it difficult to fall asleep until all rituals are completed, causing a lack of sleep and further exhaustion.

Long-Term Impacts of Untreated OCD

If OCD is left untreated, triggers may increase and make life difficult to manage. Due to time spent avoiding these triggers, isolation from friends and family is increasingly likely.

Disruptive Avoidance of Triggers

Without therapy and/or medication, obsessive thoughts and compulsions can make it extremely difficult to concentrate. Hours spent on compulsions, or avoiding triggers, can lead to missing out on life’s joys with loved ones. People who struggle with OCD commonly avoid:

  • Going outside
  • Social gatherings or celebrations
  • Seeing family and friends
  • Work or school
  • Hobbies

Isolation From Friends and Family

With hours spent ruminating and acting to avoid fears, a person may become isolated from friends and family. To cope with this, compulsions to avoid further hurt or fear increase, taking up more time. Unfortunately, this can lead to sufferers feeling that they are alone.

At Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center (Pathlight), our goal is to walk with patients every step of the way, so they know they are never on their own as they pursue recovery.

Get Treatment for OCD Today

Though the risks of OCD can be overwhelming, there is support and hope. Pathlight helps people find recovery and relief from their symptoms in treatment programs at every level of care.

Our OCD track is designed to support patients in managing their triggers and experiencing success. In addition to focusing on individual areas of struggle, patients will work on exposures during and between sessions with the support of master’s-level clinicians and their peer community.

With guidance from Pathlight's highly experienced team, patients learn and practice Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). These treatments help make gradual, systematic and sustained progress towards recovery from mood and anxiety concerns.

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