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OCD and Illness

by Ambro
by Ambro

As most of us already know, there are many things we can do to keep ourselves healthy. We can eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep. We can nurture our positive relationships and move on from our negative ones. We can practice mindfulness, gratitude, and stress-reduction techniques. We can do yoga. We can help others. The list goes on and on.

But sometimes we can do all these things and still get sick. Because as much as we hate to admit it, much of life is out of our control. Most of us get colds, an occasional virus or infection, maybe even the flu. And of course there’s a slew of more serious illnesses that might find our way to us. We deal with whatever comes our way. What other choice do we have?

For those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (an illness in and of itself), getting sick is often much more of an ordeal than it is for those without the disorder. Many people with OCD report their OCD often flares up when they are sick, no matter what type of OCD they have. And of course those who suffer from OCD and hypochondriasis are hit with a double whammy when dealing with less than optimum health: Not only might there be an overall increase in their OCD symptoms, they also must deal with the “devastating illness” they are convinced they have contracted. It’s not unheard of for those with OCD to find their way to emergency rooms on a regular basis, convinced they are dying, only to be told they are totally fine (which of course is a form of reassurance that will only strengthen the OCD).

What I find fascinating (and somewhat surprising) is that I have heard from those with OCD who actually have faced life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, and they have handled their illnesses with great strength and courage. When the “what-ifs” actually come true, those with OCD are capable of rising to the occasion. In fact people have told me when they have been faced with real crises such as a serious illness, they don’t even pay attention to their OCD. As one man put it, “I’ve got something real to deal with here; I can’t be bothered with my OCD.”

So all this worry about “what-ifs,” serious illnesses, and even dying is nothing but a waste of time and energy. Life is uncertain for all of us, whether we have obsessive-compulsive disorder or not. So I hope those with OCD can find the courage to face their obsessions and resist their compulsions, because OCD’s hold on them just might be the worst illness they’ll ever have.





OCD and Illness

Janet Singer

I am a mom whose son was completely debilitated by severe OCD in 2008. Thankfully he made a remarkable recovery and is now living life to the fullest. I've since become an advocate for OCD awareness with the goal of spreading the word that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. I am the author of Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery (Rowman & Littlefield, January 2015) and have my own blog about OCD at There truly is hope for all those who suffer from this insidious disorder!

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APA Reference
Singer, J. (2016). OCD and Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 May 2016
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