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Can OCD Cause Depression

Aug 11, 2022

Various mental health conditions, like anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, can adversely affect an individual’s life. These illnesses impact feelings thought patterns, behavior, and mood.

It is estimated that about 20% of adults in the United States are affected by mental illness each year. For many who experience a mental disorder, the onset is in adolescence or early adulthood. Though these health conditions can often be quite challenging for those struggling, treatment can improve their quality of life.

But for many, the issue of comorbidity adds another dimension of complexity. Comorbidity is when someone experiences more than one mental health condition simultaneously. 

For example, two illnesses often seen in patients are obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression. This dual diagnosis can increase the impact on the person’s functioning and complicate treatment options. But understanding both conditions can provide insight and hope to those dealing with OCD and depression.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder. As the name suggests, the prominent features of this condition are marked by a person having obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are thoughts or urges that cause distress. Such as believing something terrible will happen, fear of contamination, or continually thinking about dying. Compulsions are rituals performed by someone with OCD. These behaviors are not associated with the specific obsessions a person experiences but may temporarily relieve stress caused by these thoughts. 

Some examples of compulsions are counting, excessive cleaning, and repeatedly repeating a task to get it “right.” These obsessions and compulsions profoundly interfere with an individual’s ability to have regular interactions with others.

Causes of OCD

Although the specific causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder have not been determined, a combination of factors is implicated, including genetics and biochemistry.

  • Biochemistry – Studies have shown that there is faulty communication between specific parts of the brain that use serotonin in those with OCD.
  • Genetics – Research has also found that a person’s genes are likely involved in developing OCD. In addition, having a family member with the disease is also considered a risk factor. Stressful life events may also activate genes associated with OCD.

Treatment for OCD

Conventional treatment for OCD includes therapy and medication. The specific therapy and drugs used are exposure and response prevention (ERP), cognitive behavior therapy, and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs). Another modality, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), is also an option that has shown to be effective in treating OCD.

  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – ERP involves gradually exposing someone with OCD to anxiety triggers while preventing the individual from responding to the usual compulsive behavior. This therapy can benefit those dealing with OCD, especially when combined with medication.
  • Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs) – SRIs are a class of drugs that increase serotonin levels and improve communication within the brain. These medications can be effective treatments in combination with therapy. However, they most often must be taken in high doses and have side effects.
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) – TMS uses a non-invasive procedure to deliver magnetic pulses to the pre-supplementary motor area of the brain. Studies have reported up to a 35% reduction in OCD symptoms when using TMS techniques.

What is Depression?

Depression is a broad term for a variety of mood disorders. Mood disorders can affect many aspects of a person’s life, including their mood, sleeping and eating habits, ability to concentrate, and memory.

Depression is a common diagnosis experienced by 7% of Americans every year. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a form of depression that means a person has been experiencing symptoms such as hopelessness, worthlessness, changes in sleep habits, irritability, or lack of interest in usual activities for at least two weeks.

Causes of Depression

Like OCD, brain chemistry and genetics are involved in the development of depression. In addition, other factors are associated with the diagnosis.

  • Biochemistry – Depression may be caused by certain brain chemicals being at abnormal levels.
  • Genetics – Someone who has a relative who is depressed may be at increased risk of developing depression.
  • Life Stressors – Stressful life events can trigger the onset of depression.
  • Physical Illness – Dealing with challenging medical conditions can lead to depression.
  • Medication – Depression can be a side effect of certain medications.

Treatment for Depression

There are a few treatment options for depression, including therapy and medication. Additionally, alternative medicine and brain stimulation therapy effectively treat the condition.

  • Psychotherapy – The goal of therapy is to help individuals overcome negative thought patterns by challenging their beliefs.
  • Anti-depressants – Different anti-depressants may be used to treat depression. The most common include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These drugs help to regulate chemicals in the brain. 
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) – TMS is a brain stimulation technique that activates the prefrontal cortex region in the brain. By stimulating this area, deficient chemicals in the brain are regulated.

How OCD & Depression are Related

As previously stated, some people simultaneously have more than one mental health condition. Regarding a dual diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, there are distinct factors that have been found which link the two illnesses. There are also several elements that both disorders have in common. 

When there is a dual diagnosis, it is most common that the onset of OCD is the initial condition, followed by depression. This progression does not directly implicate OCD as a cause of depression. Still, some believe that OCD’s devastating nature can lead to changes in the brain that facilitate the onset of depression.

It is estimated that of those with OCD, about 50% also have MDD. There are a few theories regarding the high incidence of these illnesses. First, the two conditions have certain risk factors or causes in common. There are also similarities in how they affect one’s mood and thinking and negatively impact relationships. 

Second, some studies have found that persons with OCD and depression have changes in the part of the brain that helps to regulate mood. And third, the brains of those with both conditions are deficient in the mood-stabilizing chemical serotonin.

Treating a Dual Diagnosis of OCD & Depression

Treating a dual diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression can be challenging for several reasons. Primarily because of the effects of depression which often diminishes treatment compliance. Depression can make a person lazy and unwilling to follow a prescribed medication or therapy regimen. 

For this reason, some have suggested that when treating comorbid OCD and depression that the depression needs to be addressed first. However, for some who suffer from treatment-resistant depression (TRD), traditional options are not effective.

One treatment method that is effective for both OCD and depression is TMS. This technique uses a non-invasive procedure that has minimal to no side effects. Specifically, for TRD, TMS is superior to drugs and therapy, with 30% of people experiencing complete symptom remission. And studies involving TMS treatment for OCD have also reported positive results in symptom reduction.

TMS Treatment for OCD & Depression in San Diego

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression are mental health disorders that can affect mood, behaviors, and thinking. Being diagnosed with these disorders simultaneously can be common, and treatment can include therapy, medications, or alternatives like transcranial magnetic stimulation.

If you or someone you know in the San Diego area is dealing with OCD and depression, consider Brain Therapy TMS. TMS can be an alternative treatment for OCD and depression, especially when other treatment methods have failed. Especially if previous treatments have been less than satisfactory, it may be time to try an alternative. Life can be enjoyable again when the right treatment plan is implemented. 

Considering TMS Treatment? Schedule a Consultation!

Tired of the results you’re getting from your standard treatment? Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation may be able to increase your chances of long-term remission, reducing your symptoms and allowing you to live a more joyful life.




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