woman dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder in women by folding

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Women

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health concern that can have a debilitating effect on everyday life. OCD can interfere with work, relationships, and personal life and create an unwanted and unhealthy cycle of stress. OCD is experienced by both men and women at about the same rate, although there are some differences in the symptoms presented, as well as when they occur.

While OCD appears in men more often during childhood, women account for an increase in diagnoses around the ages of 18-35. The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder in women are largely similar to those of men, except that OCD may worsen one’s own body image, resulting in hair-pulling or anorexia nervosa (food avoidance). Living with OCD is tiresome, and going untreated can only worsen things. With Promises Behavioral Health, our women’s rehab center can tailor treatment to the unique needs of women and provide a safe space free of stigma. Call us at 844.875.5609 to learn how the right obsessive-compulsive personality disorder treatment can drastically improve your well-being.

Breaking Down OCD

As the name implies, there are two components to OCD: obsessions and compulsions.

  • Obsessions are thoughts that won’t go away, even when an individual tries to think about something else. Obsessions can cause great anxiety and often take a similar form among patients, including obsessions about germs or health, “impure” thoughts, or thoughts about harming others.
  • Compulsions are repeated behaviors that occur in response to the obsessions. The urge to perform these actions is difficult to shake off, resulting in their relentless repetition. Examples may include excessive hand washing or cleaning, ordering things in a neat or symmetrical fashion, counting things compulsively, or repeatedly checking things like locks, lights, faucets, stove dials, etc.

Other factors, particularly stress and anxiety, can make OCD symptoms worse. OCD is seen as an ineffective coping mechanism for some deeper issues.

Specific OCD Symptoms in Women

Although obsessive-compulsive disorder occurs at about the same rate in women and men, women are more likely to have obsessions related to cleanliness or germs and thus are more likely to display compulsions in handwashing or excessive cleanliness. Comorbidity with eating disorders or impulse control disorders is also more common among women with OCD than men. Conversely, men are more likely to have aggressive, sexual, or religious-based obsessions and to experience comorbidity with substance use.

It begins to become unclear what exactly drives these gendered differences. OCD may not actually induce different symptoms but may exacerbate the societal differences between men and women. For instance, women tend to suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) at a higher rate than men, and estimates of the comorbidity between OCD and BDD range from 5% to 45%. An important distinction is that OCD has not been shown to cause BDD but that the two do seem to correlate in some capacity.

Begin Your OCD Treatment at Promises Behavioral Health

The symptoms of OCD shouldn’t just be brushed off—your quality of life can seriously dive if left unattended for too long. OCD is considered chronic and thus may not truly go away or may return at a later time. At Promises Behavioral Health, we take an approach to treating obsessive-compulsive disorder in women that factors in each patient’s gender, age, and total psychiatric profile.OCD is typically treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which patients learn to recognize obsessive thought patterns and take steps to reduce their impact or change them altogether. Medication may be used in conjunction with therapy to take the edge off of one’s anxiety.

Addressing any comorbidity issues is very important for successful recovery. A women’s rehab center that focuses on dual diagnosis or comorbidity may be the most effective treatment plan for women with eating disorders or substance use disorders. For more information on what to expect at a women’s rehab center, contact us at 844.875.5609 for a confidential consultation.


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