The Cost of OCD – And Yes, I’m Talking about Money

by yodiyim

If you or a loved one has obsessive-compulsive disorder, then you know how devastating  it can be when left untreated – it takes a huge toll not only on the person with OCD, but also on all those who care about him or her. In addition to wasted time and energy, relationships have been destroyed, families have fallen apart, careers have been ruined, and people’s lives have been shattered.

When we talk about the high cost of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the above scenarios are usually what we are referring to.

But what about the actual cost in dollars (or pounds, or whatever currency you use)? Is it expensive to live with OCD?

It sure is. My guess is everyone with the disorder will have his or her own examples, but let’s just take a look at a few of the more common ways money can be lost to OCD:

  • If you deal with contamination OCD, this might just be the most expensive type of OCD to live with. Perhaps you go through so many cleaning products you are buying them a few times a week or even daily. And don’t forget your inflated heating and water bills from the hours and hours of showers you “have” to take, or from the excessive loads of laundry you “must” do. You might regularly throw out perfectly good clothes or other items because you feel they are contaminated. Then you “have” to go out and buy new items to replace the contaminated ones. And if you wash your hands until they are so raw they bleed, you need to buy lotion and/or first-aid supplies to prevent infection. You might even need to visit a doctor – another expense.
  • If you have “hit and run” OCD or any type of OCD related to driving, you might find yourself driving in circles for hours just to make sure you didn’t hit anyone. Maybe you take longer routes to avoid certain roads. These compulsions add extra wear and tear onto your car and are a waste of gasoline.
  • If you have OCD related to your health it can come at a substantial cost. Unnecessary visits to doctors and hospitals as well as needless tests and medications can easily cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
  • If you deal with “just right” OCD, you might often be late for work, school, or other obligations, causing you to lose your job or perhaps your college scholarship, or at the very least find yourself underemployed. Job loss, poor school and work performance, and underemployment are all common repercussions of living with untreated OCD, and the financial costs can be staggering.

As you can see, in addition to mental torment, there is a huge monetary cost to living with OCD. And the financial losses are not limited to those with the disorder. Family members and all loved ones and caregivers often suffer as well.

The solution?

Get the right help. Yes, finding a good therapist and engaging in exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy can be tough – and expensive – but instead of wasting time, energy, and money, you will be making the smartest investment possible as you work toward a life controlled by you, not OCD. And that’s something you can’t put a price on.

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12 Responses to The Cost of OCD – And Yes, I’m Talking about Money

  1. Carol T says:

    I can definitely relate … my son has refused to wear many clothes, use suitcases, lunchboxes. phone charging cords, etc after he thinks they have become contaminated. Therapists are very expensive, $150 per hour in our area. We paid for once a week visits for two years and I often thought about people who need this and can’t afford it. This year he switched to a new therapist and his health plan though his college covers it except for a $20 co-pay. If the ACA is overturned, mental health will probably no longer be covered.

    • Thank you for sharing Carol, and yes, it is so difficult for those who are not able to afford therapy. I am glad your son is willing to get help and hope he is seeing a good OCD specialist who uses ERP therapy. Wishing you both all the best in 2018!

  2. Doris says:

    We are right now incurring those costs.

    Thanks for the links – i was studying the link to 7 common ert mistakes – the therapist indicates we should go gradually into the ‘core issue’

    I appreciate it’s subjective – any suggestion on how to know what is too slow?

    • Hi Doris, I’m not a therapist, so I can’t really comment on your son’s situation. I will say that people go months and years supposedly doing ERP with no improvement, and that usually means they are not getting appropriate treatment. Many people say that with good ERP therapy there should be noticeable improvements in 12 – 16 weeks, though of course each situation is different.

  3. Doris says:

    We are struggling as the school district wants him to go to a school with OCD therapy but he already has an OCD therapist and I’m concerned on two counts –

    1 – conflicts – is more better?

    2 – the academic level is lower at the therapeutic school – i believe the district should provide education at the appropriate academic level.


    • If your son is seeing an OCD specialist now, I suggest you involve him/her in these decisions regarding your son. Of course your thoughts and concerns should also be taken seriously. Good luck!

  4. Paul says:

    I’d like to share my experience (briefly) as a guy in his 50s with treatment resistant OCD:

    – In March I will have been in treatment for 28 years. Obviously my medical costs for therapy and medication are significant (and ongoing). (Fortunately my insurance is good. Not great, but good.)
    – Sadly, OCD destroyed my marriage 17 years ago. That was a loss of 1/2 of my household income.
    – I am college-educated and I had a “solid-middle-class career”. My OCD got very severe after my divorce and I never fully bounced back from that. My job performance suffered and I had to go on long-term disability (lost my job). Thank goodness my employer provides private disability insurance! Still, my own income dropped by 1/3. So if my arithmetic is correct, between divorce and disability I lost 2/3 of my household income. Sadly, that forced me to sell my beautiful home which was custom-built and I had hoped to die in.
    – I’m happy to say I have adjusted my lifestyle and I am doing OK!

    Bottom line: For those of you who are supporting children with OCD, this is serious stuff.
    I wish you all the best!

  5. 1957carol says:

    Thanks for this article, Janet. As an OCD therapist, I have observed that the average amount of money spent by contamination sufferers to support their OCD is approximately $200 per month, and often much more. Laundry detergent, soap, lotion, new clothes, shoes, cleaning supplies, energy and water charges, paper towels, additional charges related to garbage such a surcharges or extra bags, car washes and car cleaning supplies. Sometimes the cost of self-medicating through alcohol or weed. I have seen people spend $700 on a new phone because they deemed the old one contaminated. Through exposure and response prevention therapy, sufferers can recover from this torment and become well. I have often suggested that they then donate the equivalent amount of money that they were wasting to feeding hungry children.

  6. Very interesting and an article worth writing. This is very real and something that a lot of people don’t immediately consider when they think about obsessive compulsive disorder. Thank you for writing!

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