Is There A Link Between OCD And Depression?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 5 people in the United States has a mental health disorder. Mental health affects every aspect of our life, from our relationships with others to our ability to perform daily tasks. When mental health is compromised, you may experience various symptoms, such as anxiety, hopelessness, and sadness, which can negatively impact your personal and professional life.

Various mental health conditions exist, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression. Both conditions come with their unique set of symptoms and can have a significant impact on an individual's quality of life. However, both conditions aren't the same.

OCD is characterized by intrusive, repetitive thoughts and behaviors that are difficult to control (via These thoughts and behaviors can be distressing and time-consuming and can interfere with an individual's ability to carry out daily activities. Depression, on the other hand, is a mood disorder that can cause persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and disinterest in daily activities (via

Recognizing the symptoms of both conditions helps provide a better understanding of the relationship between the two. This also ensures effective diagnosis and treatment, which is crucial for improving outcomes and preventing conditions from worsening.

Is there a link between OCD and depression?

While they are distinct conditions, some evidence suggests a link between OCD and depression. Research suggests that individuals with OCD are at an increased risk of developing depression. One 2007 study found that up to 39.5% of individuals with OCD also have major depression.

2015 study found that individuals with OCD who experience more severe symptoms are more likely to also experience symptoms of depression. This link may be partly due to the obsessions people with OCD have. The distress and impairment caused by OCD might also lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, contributing to depression.

There may also be a biological link between OCD and depression. Both conditions have been associated with abnormalities in the functioning of certain neurotransmitters which regulate mood and behavior, per a 2021 study published in the World Journal of Psychiatry.

Unfortunately, having depression can make treatment more challenging for those with OCD. But while there may be a link between OCD and depression, these conditions require different treatment approaches.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

How are OCD and depression treated?

Treatment for OCD often involves cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with their OCD symptoms, says Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is another therapy option that involves gradually exposing individuals to the situations or triggers that cause their obsessive thoughts while helping them resist engaging in compulsive behaviors. ERP is very effective in treating OCD.

In addition to therapy, medication can be used to treat OCD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant that can help reduce the symptoms of OCD, explains the National Health Service (NHS).

Medications are also available to treat depression along with psychotherapy (via the Mayo Clinic). In addition to therapy and medication, lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms of depression. Regular exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation, may all help improve mood and reduce depression symptoms, says the clinic.

If someone has both OCD and depression, it's important to address both, since depression can make it hard to stick to a treatment plan. In particular, a patient may benefit from CBT that encourages them to participate in enjoyable activities and challenges their negative thoughts associated with depression (per International OCD Foundation). This sort of treatment will not only improve symptoms of depression, but make it more likely that symptoms of OCD will improve with treatment, as well.