Racing thoughts, images you can’t shake from your mind… both obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety can cause these and other similar symptoms. This can make knowing if you have one or both of these conditions challenging.

At Potomac Shores Mental Health and Wellness, board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner Nola Ayoola-Yussuf, PMHNP-BC, diagnoses and treats OCD and anxiety at her practice in Woodbridge, Virginia, and through telehealth appointments for patients in Maryland, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Washington, DC. 

Here’s a closer look at OCD and anxiety and the signs you may have one (or both) of these mental health disorders.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD is a complicated mental health disorder that researchers believe has a genetic link. This disorder can be tricky to diagnose and requires a careful evaluation with a trained psychiatric specialist. 

OCD is rather rare, affecting around 1%-2% of American adults. While your genetic makeup (e.g., family history of OCD) is your biggest risk factor in developing the condition, researchers believe the disorder arises from a combination of genetic and other factors, including:

  • Childhood trauma or stress
  • Differences in brain structures or functionality
  • Having autism or another mental health disease 

In addition, certain prenatal factors or having a specific childhood autoimmune disorder (PANDAS) also increase your risk. 

Signs you may have OCD

People with OCD struggle with impulses, thoughts, and images called obsessions that interrupt their daily life. When you experience these obsessions, you don’t feel like you have any control over them. 

People with OCD experience these obsessions regularly for one or more hours per day. They can come in many different forms, but some of the common obsessions of OCD include the following:

  • Sexual-related thoughts, fears, and mental images 
  • Contamination regarding chemicals or things in the environment
  • Contamination regarding germs or bodily fluids
  • Violent acts, impulses, or mental images that trigger fear
  • Excessive moral or religious concerns
  • Personal identity, gender, or sexual orientation
  • Excessive worry about personal responsibilities
  • Extreme perfectionism
  • Excessive worry or questions about memories
  • Extreme concerns or fears about relationships
  • Existential or philosophical concerns

People with OCD may also have compulsions. Compulsions are actions or thoughts people with OCD believe they can think or perform to counteract their obsessions and make them go away — at least for a short time.

Anxiety disorders

Experiencing some anxiety is normal. But for around one-fifth of American adults, anxiety grows into a serious problem. Different types of anxiety disorders include social anxiety, specific phobias, and panic disorder.

However, the most common anxiety disorder is GAD or generalized anxiety disorder. This disorder causes people to worry more than normal about issues and situations in their everyday lives.

Signs you may have anxiety

Anxiety disorders put your body under stress, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. In addition to the racing thoughts anxiety causes, these hormones can trigger physical symptoms. 

Here’s a look at some common signs you may have an anxiety disorder:

  • Worrying all the time
  • Experiencing feelings of dread or doom
  • Feeling panicked for no apparent reason (e.g., increased heart rate, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, tightness in the chest, excessive sweating)
  • Sleep troubles (e.g., insomnia, night waking, sleeping too much)
  • Feeling wobbly, shaking, or trembling without a physical cause
  • Problems focusing, thinking, or getting distracted

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s time to schedule an evaluation with Nola at Potomac Shores Mental Health and Wellness. 

Combining OCD and anxiety

You may have both conditions if you recognize the signs of both OCD and anxiety. However, anxiety is not necessarily part of OCD and vice versa. In other words, you may also have only one of the disorders.

When people have both, most commonly, people with OCD develop anxiety rather than people with GAD developing OCD, though either may occur. People with OCD may develop anxiety in response to the intrusive thoughts that create disruptions in their life. 

Researchers recently discovered that over one-third of people with OCD also have an anxiety disorder. Remember that while anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the US, less than 2% of Americans have OCD. 

Treating OCD, anxiety, or both

At Potomac Shores Mental Health and Wellness, our provider specializes in diagnosing many mental health disorders, including OCD and anxiety. Nola reviews your symptoms, medical health history, personal preferences, and more to expertly diagnose your condition. 

The right treatment depends on your diagnosis and other factors. Most of the time, both OCD and anxiety respond best to a combined treatment approach that uses both medications and psychotherapy. 

For more help with OCD and/or anxiety, schedule an appointment online or over the phone with Nola Ayoola-Yussuf, PMHNP-PC, at Potomac Shores Mental Health and Wellness.

Call Us Text Us
Skip to content