Managing depression with OCD

Depression can commonly accompany somebody who is battling another mental health disorder particularly anxiety disorders such as OCD. A person may have PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, OCD, or an array of other types of mental disorders such as any of the substance-related disorders or personality disorders, and also be battling a case of a depressive disorder; it is not all that uncommon. The good news though is not only that there are effective treatments for depression, but there is also a very good prognosis of recovery with depression. The treatments are not some magical ‘quick-fix wonders’ and it may take a lot of time and effort on your behalf to improve your symptoms, but treatments DO work!

In the meantime though, how can a person live with both depression and another disorder? How can we manage depression? If a person has for example OCD, will OCD get worse if one gets depression on top of it? What might commonly occur first; another disorder such as OCD, or depression?

Firstly, how can a person live with or cope with both depression and another disorder; let’s say OCD? Of course, there are factors to consider such as the individual’s coping ability with life circumstances that may accompany depression, or how one copes with stress and anxiety as this often goes hand-in-hand with depressive symptoms, and how ‘bad’ (the severity) an individual’s case of OCD and depression is. So, the actual type of depression, the severity, our coping resources and ability, and many other factors such as whether a person has access to help can all be contributing factors in how we cope.

Speaking from my own experience with Major Depressive Disorder which required treatment of ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), I found that my symptoms of OCD faded considerably during my battle and treatment of depression. It did not really feel like a ‘double-dose’ of a disorder or being ‘twice as unwell or sick’. Personally, I regard my past case of severe to extreme OCD as being much, MUCH more difficult to cope with and live with than going through a period of a Major Depressive Disorder. Well, how can we cope with both OCD and depression? Personally, I think there are no such easy solutions or magical cures (as in quick-fix solutions).

Depression may be very difficult to manage or to live with and particularly troublesome if it also accompanies another disorder such as OCD, personality disorders, or drug or alcohol problems/disorders to name a few. It is very common for a person who has OCD to also experience depression at some stage in their lives. It is actually estimated that about two in every three people with OCD will experience at least one major depressive episode at some stage in their lives. However, as difficult as it may be, it may not actually be quite as bad as one may think in terms of having two major problems to deal with at the same time. Maybe it is for some, but from my own experience, my symptoms in OCD reduced considerably while going through a Major Depressive Disorder.

The mind of a person with OCD seems to be a tangled mess of thoughts which never seem to quench. The mind seems so active! Yet, in a depressive state, the mind can seem to slow down (depending on the type of mood disorder) and even seem somewhat ‘braindead’ which seems to be opposite of what it is like living with OCD and its accompanying obsessions. Perhaps depression ‘takes over’ as the main symptom, yet the symptoms of OCD will still be there, but not quite at the same intensity. For some, this may be the case, for others parhaps not.

There is some very promising news though! The prognosis of depression is very positive in that depression is regarded as a very treatable disorder. Also, OCD can generally have a better prognosis than other types of mental health problems such as Schizophrenia (however, about one in three people diagnosed with Schizophrenia will also fully recover). So, both OCD and depression are regarded as treatable and they CAN be managed! I never believed it years ago, and my OCD was severe to extreme (for many years) and my depression was also very bad (Major Depressive Disorder), but with the maraculous help of psychologists, doctors and others, you CAN get better.

You may ask whether depression is more likely to lead to OCD or if depression usually follows OCD. It is believed that in the vast majority of cases, depression follows as a complication of OCD or after the onset of OCD symptoms (Ref. P.E.M.H.). It is likely that depression may often result from the continual torment not only from OCD itself, but from associated problems at work and at home which are so often in tandem with symptoms of OCD.

Some psychiatrists will tell us that OCD and depression have different causes. However, another point of view is that there is a close association between OCD and depression possibly relating to shared biological and psychological factors as it appears that both OCD and depression involve alterations in the function of the serotonin system. Also, both OCD and depression appear to involve alterations in brain regions that are related to processing of emotional experiences (Ref, E.P.).

I hope that this article assists people to understand that mental disorders such as depression, OCD, Schizophrenia, Anorexia, and so forth can all be treated. There seems no cure for mental illness in general, however, it may astonish some people (I firmly believed I would never be able to manage my mental health problems years ago) that it really is possible, through various forms of help, to manage and recover from mental illness.

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