Difference Between OCD and Anxiety

Though individuals with anxiety tend to worry a lot, they do not typically engage in compulsive, ritualistic behaviors to cope with their anxiety. People with OCD, however, commonly use repetitive behaviors (either physical or mental rituals called compulsions) to relieve stress caused by an obsession.

The thought patterns characteristic of anxiety also distinguish it from OCD. People with general anxiety tend to worry about real-life concerns; these topics are by-and-large appropriate to worry about, though the degree of worry is clearly excessive. Worries may be about major life issues – such as health, finances, or relationships – but they are also about many minor, day-to-day stresses that others would tend not to perceive as intensely – such as giving a work presentation or not being able to predict what one’s daily schedule will be. Pathological worry, the kind that meets the threshold for a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, is pervasive and uncontrollable and tends to involve a lot of catastrophizing or otherwise biased thinking.

Obsessions, the hallmark thought processes of OCD, are also difficult for the afflicted individual to control. However, in contrast to GAD, these thoughts or mental impulses extend far beyond everyday worries and problems. Obsessive thinking is more irrational or unrealistic and sometimes even has a magical quality.

For example, a student with OCD might believe that items on her desk must be lined up in perfect symmetry and counting a specific number of times to prevent her from failing a test. Or, a parent with OCD might believe that they need to say a particular phrase repeatedly throughout the day to keep their children safe.

Sometimes people may only experience pure O (or just mental obsessions) this can be difficult to detect because there is no outward sign of trying to control the anxiety. Through careful assessment we can determine the function of your thinking patterns. Mental obsessions function in a way that it protects against the feared thought.