When my son Dan’s obsessive-compulsive disorder was severe, he was also clinically depressed. I didn’t find this surprising in the least. He spent many days just lying on the floor, and he could barely eat. Even when he was somewhat able to go about his day, he was tormented non-stop by obsessions. Who wouldn’t be depressed living like this? Thankfully, even though he was battling depression, he was still totally invested in beating OCD, and was able to commit himself fully to exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. As his OCD improved, his depression lessened, and eventually dissipated. This is not an uncommon sequence of events for those suffering from both depression and OCD.
But what if you are dealing with OCD and depression, and your depression is so bad that it hinders your ability to participate in ERP therapy? While the depression might still be a by-product of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder, treating the OCD before the depression is just not feasible. In this case, the depression needs to be treated first so that engaging in therapy can be possible.
The frequent co-occurrence of OCD and other brain disorders underscores the importance of having a health-care provider who is knowledgeable about OCD and experienced in treating it and co-occurring conditions. While the example above might seem straightforward enough, co-morbid illnesses might impede a correct diagnosis and treatment. In the above case, if depression isn’t recognized as the reason why therapy is ineffective, people with OCD might believe their disorder is treatment-resistant, and that ERP therapy just won’t work for them. They are left with no hope at all which might lead to an even deeper depression.
OCD is treatable, as is depression. A competent therapist will be able to formulate the best plan for the successful treatment of both disorders. If you feel your depression is getting in the way of your ERP therapy, make sure to let your health-care provider know. Beating OCD and depression can be tricky, but it is possible, and those suffering from both can go on to lead happy, productive lives.
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