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Can Obsessive Compulsive Disorder be Exacerbated by Anger?

written by: Alicia Miller • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/12/2011

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is often exacerbated by repressed anger. People suffering from OCD may often have unexplained anger outbursts that can be minimized through certain effective treatment methods and self-help techniques. Learn about the effects of anger and how outbursts can be minimized.

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    OCD, Repressed Anger and Anger Outbursts

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder characterized by the presence of obsessive thoughts and uncontrollable compulsive behaviors. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, OCD affects around 2.2 million American adults. While there are many theories as to why certain people develop OCD, the causes are not completely understood. The Mayo Clinic suggests that OCD can develop as a result of biological factors, such as genetics or brain chemistry, environmental factors and low levels of serotonin.

    Additionally, research has been conducted on factors that seem to exacerbate OCD and its symptoms. Repressed anger, sometimes channeled into aggressive thoughts, aggressive behaviors or compulsions (such as self-mutilation), and anger outbursts, are often seen in individuals with OCD. Therefore researchers have asked questions such as, "Can obsessive-compulsive disorder be exacerbated by anger?"

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    Can Obsessive Compulsive Disorder be Exacerbated by Anger?

    Certain factors appear to have an influence on OCD, and they can also exacerbate it. In fact, in their book, "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Treatment," researchers José A. Yaryura-Tobias, MD and Fugen A. Neziroglu, PhD, point out that anger may play an important secondary role in the exacerbation of OCD. They suggest that OCD's debilitating symptoms cause anger and frustration, due to factors such as the inability to socialize or to adequately function in society.

    This anger can be channeled in one of two ways - outer directed anger, such as verbal outbursts or aggressive behavior, and inner-directed anger, which usually manifests as depression. People with OCD may experience an increase in compulsive verbal behaviors, such as repeating certain phrases or numbers, in an attempt to alleviate some of the uncomfortable feelings caused by their repressed anger. They may also become depressed and direct their anger towards themselves, if they are unable to channel their anger into external areas. Interestingly, low levels of serotonin are thought to cause anger in certain OCD patients, and low serotonin levels are also associated with the development of depression and OCD.

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    Minimizing Anger Outbursts

    As with any anger and impulse control disorder, outbursts of anger in OCD patients can be minimized in a variety of ways. Techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can teach patients how to minimize their anger outbursts and therapists will suggest ways of effectively managing anger.

    Medication therapy, such as antidepressants like fluoxetine (sold in the US as Prozac), or sertraline, (sold in the US as Zoloft), may also help to minimize anger, as they help to increase serotonin levels in the brain.

    Another point to consider is avoiding the use of alcohol and illegal drugs. According to the Mayo Clinic, drug and alcohol abuse is common in people with OCD.

    Additionally, having social support may also help to decrease anger levels, because you will feel less isolated and disconnected from society. Support groups for people suffering from OCD can be especially helpful, as you can learn about the ways in which others control their anger as well as receiving support for other OCD related issues.

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    References

    National Institute of Mental Health: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

    Mayo Clinic: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Causes

    "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Treatment"; José A. Yaryura-Tobias, MD and Fugen A. Neziroglu, Ph.D; 1997