Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD – and Eating Disorders

What is OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Woman with eyes closed fighting Obsessive Compulsive DisorderObsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder in which a man or a woman experiences repeated thoughts, feelings, sensations, behaviors, or ideas (compulsions) that lead them to the engagement of a ritual or repeated habit (compulsion).

OCD is depicted by feelings of apprehension or uneasiness, and the use of repetitive behaviors is aimed at reducing the correlated anxiety.   Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is usually seen as a co-occurring disorder, meaning it typically exists with other illnesses such as substance abuse or eating disorders.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Signs and Symptoms

Most individuals suffering from OCD typically experience symptoms related to obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.  These symptoms that are exemplified are as follows:

Obsessive thoughts symptoms include:

  • Fear of instigating harm to oneself or others
  • Fear of being polluted by germs or dirt
  • Excessive attention to superstitious beliefs
  • Having the belief or idea that everything must be symmetrical
  • Fear of losing things in one’s possession

Compulsive behavior symptoms include:

  • Excessive time spent on cleaning or washing
  • Repetitively arranging or ordering things
  • Hoarding unnecessary items or objects
  • Repetitive habits such as counting, tapping or chanting  words in attempt to reduce anxiety
  • Constantly checking of things, such as locks or switches

What Causes OCD?

There are several factors that are thought to be responsible for the development of obsessive compulsive disorder.  Primarily, it is hypothesized that obsessive compulsive disorder progresses due to psychological and biological components.  Examples of such are abnormalities of hormone levels associated with mood function, genetic mutations, infections, and possibly brain injuries.

Obsessive compulsive disorder can be detrimental in terms of the ability to function for the individual suffering from this condition.  Obsessions can be time-consuming, making it difficult to obtain regular employment or partake in family, relationship, or social events.

Often, those suffering from OCD may experience intense levels of discomfort or depression related to the disorder.  Additionally, obsessive compulsive disorder is often correlated with the risk of developing eating disorders.

Connection & Relationship between OCD and Eating Disorders

Obsessive compulsive disorder is often directly connected with eating disorders.  Often, eating disorders are characterized by behaviors similar to that seen in OCD, such as obsessive thoughts about food and calories, food rituals such as cutting food symmetrically, or hoarding of food items.

For an individual who is struggling with an eating disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, foods are chosen based on color, weight, shape, etc, and often the two conditions are linked through the attempt to obtain perfectionism.

Treatment of Eating Disorders and OCD

Because many behaviors related to an eating disorder can also be categorized as obsessive or compulsive, it is crucial to treat the eating disorder and anxiety at the same time.  Often times, the underlying issues related to both disorders are common, and in resolving inner conflicts, behaviors associated with both may be improved.

A comprehensive medical team may be beneficial in addressing the various needs of both an eating disorder and OCD, such as nutritional deficiencies, medications, and therapy.  Psychotherapy, such as exposure and ritual prevention, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, may be effective methods of treatment for both conditions.

Articles Relating to Eating Disorders and OCD

  • It is common for eating disorder sufferers to also experience an anxiety disorder like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  Eating disorders and OCD have many similarities, and the appropriate treatment of both conditions can help improve the prognosis for recovery.

Last Updated &  Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on
March 31, 2014
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com, Online Eating Disorder Information