OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and depression are two separate mental illnesses, however, research has shown that they are than just co-morbid disorders. The latest studies suggest that as high as two-thirds of people who live with OCD will at some point face a depressive order that could be diagnosed as depression. Unfortunately, depression layered on top of OCD can be even more dangerous since depression may hinder the ability of people with OCD to follow their treatment plans.
Does OCD Cause Depression, or Is It the Other Way Around?
While depression and many other illnesses can vary in length and appearance, in almost all people the appearance of depression occurs after an OCD diagnosis. In fact, in very few people does depression symptoms appear before OCD symptoms. This suggests that the stress and troubles that develop from trying to hide OCD tendencies at work and home may lead to the development of depression.
The International OCD Foundation describes OCD as “devastating to interpersonal relationships, leisure activities, school or work functioning, and to general life satisfaction.” Certainly, it is easy to see how the disruption to daily life can lead someone with OCD towards depressive thoughts and actions. The unwanted thoughts that those with OCD tend to perseverate can also be very dark and troublesome, increasing the likelihood that they will suffer from a depressive episode if they cannot overcome the thoughts.
A Chemical Basis
Mental health has been the subject of debate for decades, and scientists now believe that biochemical factors may be at play that explain why some people are more prone to depression than others. For example, both OCD and depressive disorders are characterized by a halt in serotonin production. Therefore, it is speculated that someone with OCD will have even lower serotonin levels laying the groundwork for depression to easily occur.
The Bottomline of OCD and Depression
So why does the actual label matter? While OCD and depression are just diagnoses, the presence of both indicates an uphill struggle for the person afflicted with both. Severe depression is known to interfere with common OCD treatments which means it can exacerbate life-altering symptoms such as compulsions and obsessions. Most OCD treatments rely on cognitive behavioral therapy along with exposure therapy. However, those facing depression will be much less likely to engage in exposure therapy long-term and on average do not respond as well.
In addition, depression is known to reduce the likelihood that a person will adhere to their prescribed drug therapy, which can be an issue if they are taking OCD medication and/or any other medication-related to their health. Simply put, a dual diagnosis is a challenge to face and overcome when the depressive episodes make it much more appealing to just give up.
How to Treat OCD and Depression
Patients should never attempt to self-treat or self-diagnosis themselves. If you are suffering from OCD and start to experience any symptoms of depression such as sadness, listlessness, or suicidal thoughts it is imperative you speak to your doctor promptly so your treatment plan can be adjusted. In most cases, the depression will need to be addressed first before OCD treatment can recommence.