Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms can intensify and worsen over the years. Symptoms can range in severity and how often you experience them, and you might notice them increase during particularly stressful times in your life. For most people, even if symptoms begin early in life, as OCD compulsions and obsessions become more intense, the condition can become more difficult to manage. Urges or compulsions can look like any of the following:
- A need to keep things very orderly
- A need for things to be symmetrical
- Intense fear of contamination or dirt
- Horrifying images or thoughts of self-harm or harming others
- Unwelcome thoughts of aggression
- Unintentional and very unwanted thoughts of sexual aggression or subjects
Symptoms that could worsen OCD
What makes OCD worse? There are several things that can trigger an OCD episode and conditions — known as comorbidities — that may contribute to how severe your OCD is as well.
In fact, comorbidities are the main source of what causes OCD to get worse. It’s estimated that about 90% of people who have OCD also have other mental health conditions. These additional related conditions can add to how severe OCD might be. Some of them include:
- Types of anxiety disorders
- Impulse control disorders
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Mood disorders
- Major depression disorder (MDD)
- Social anxiety disorder
- Tic disorder
- Substance abuse disorders
As comorbidities and conditions become more severe, it’s very common for untreated OCD to also worsen. This can be especially true if someone acts on compulsive behavior in hopes of relieving some of their anxiety.
Because everyone’s symptoms are different and OCD is very individualized, it’s difficult to say exactly when, how, or even if OCD symptoms will become more prevalent. Adding to the challenge is the fact that OCD has many unofficial subtypes (ways OCD shows in your life). Contamination OCD, just-right OCD, harm OCD, counting OCD, and more are some of the various ways that OCD can be seen.
However, one thing that is clear is that comorbidities, stress, anxiety, and major life changes or circumstances can all play a significant role in how much worse OCD might become.
As symptoms increase or intensify, people with OCD may also experience the following: