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The Impact On Eating Behaviours When Living With OCD

ocd and weight gain

What Is OCD?  

In order to understand the relationship between OCD and weight gain, first, we need to truly understand what OCD is in the first place.  

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a very misunderstood mental health illness that is often miss-interpreted in popular culture.  

People who enjoy a tidy home or clean a lot might be falsely labeled as 'OCD,' or someone that likes something done a particular way might say, "I'm really OCD about how I do things."

But OCD is not a personality trait, nor a particular way of conducting your business, it is instead a serious mental illness that a crippling impact on sufferers lives.  

OCD can present itself in an individual at any age, sometimes for no apparent reason, although it is most commonly brought to light in teenagers.  

In America alone, it is estimated that there are around 3 million people living with mental illness OCD, although this number is incredibly hard to definitively determine, as many people choose to suffer in silence.  

It is also believed that at least 1 in every 200 teenagers have diagnosed OCD.  

OCD is defined by somewhat of a cycle.

  1. Obsessive thought
  2. Anxiety
  3. Compulsive behavior
  4. Temporary relief

This ritual can play out countless times a day, for example, somebody with OCD might have a fear of having dirty hands, so they constantly go through the cycle as a way to cope.

First, they might touch something and think that their hands are now dirty; this is the obsessive thought.

Then anxiety starts to sink in, and there is a search for a way to reduce the anxious feelings.

After comes the compulsion, which could manifest itself as hand washing, or even simply wiping their hands on a particular 'safe' towel.

Now that they have gone through the process, they feel some temporary relief until something else triggers the cycle again.  

The trouble with OCD is that the behavior does nothing to address the problem and instead encourages you to put in place rituals that help you to cope.

Suffers are usually completely aware that their compulsions, and understand that they only relive anxiety temporarily, and yet they can't help it, which can be incredibly frustrating.  

OCD is almost like having a little voice in your head that you can't help but listen to and obey.  

obsessive compulsive disorders

Typical Symptoms Of An Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  

OCD can present itself in many different ways, and the symptoms of OCD usually differs massively from person to person.

Most sufferers of OCD can be categorized under 1 or more of the following:

  • Hoarders - Those who fear that something terrible will happen if they were to through something or anything away.
  • Doubters/sinners - People that believe if they do not have everything perfect or in its right place, they will be punished.  
  • Washers - Those who are afraid of contamination/dirt/poisons. These usually have washing or avoidance compulsions 
  • Checkers - People who feel the need to repeatedly check things that they associate with danger, such as the locking of doors, that the oven is off, that plug switches aren't on, etc.
  • Counters/arrangers - These are the people that are obsessed and find comfort in symmetry, particular numbers, and the arrangement of thoughts or objects.  

Each subcategory comes with its own set of symptoms, although many sufferers of OCD exsperience multiple symptoms.

  • Fear of being harmed by germs or chemicals.
  • Fear of harming themselves, others, or a general feeling of being out of control.
  • Untimely sexual thoughts, or unwanted violent thoughts.
  • Extreme religious/moral views.
  • Fear of losing out or chucking something away that they might need in the future.
  • Desire an unnecessary amount of order and symmetry and wanting everything to line up perfectly.
  • particular attention on practices that might be considered lucky or unlucky

As well as stand-alone symptoms, there are also common compulsive behaviors that those with OCD tend to show:

  • Excessive checking of things such as door locks
  • Checking on loved ones to make sure that they’re safe far too regularly.
  • Repeating certain mantras, or 'ticks,' such as tapping or counting, etc. 
  • Spending a disproportionate on the washing and cleaning. never satisfied with the cleanliness of the home.
  • Re-arranging objects or things for no apparent reason.
  • Praying excessively out religious fear./
  • Accumulating clutter and junk, even if it has no use, such as old newspapers.

What can cause OCD.  

Unfortunately, there is no outright cause of OCD, similarly to most mental health illnesses. Some believe that OCD is, for the most part, due to genetic/hereditary factors; others believe that it is strictly a result of the environment and how an individual has processed personal experiences.  

Another more considerate theory is that it could be a result of both. Meaning that a person's genetics might set them up or make them more susceptible to developing OCD, but certain environmental factors are what ultimately trigger and cause the illness to form.  

There has been a lot of research, plenty of theories and countless opinions in regards to the cause of OCD, while there is no solid answer, people do agree that OCD can be avoided and reduced if properly managed.

Treating OCD.

OCD can be managed with some medication, but it is rare that medication alone will actually treat OCD long term.

In order to significantly reduce OCD, it is strongly advised that sufferers reach out and take part in certain therapies:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT.)  

Cognitive-behavioral therapy centers around how your thoughts, opinions, and attitudes, ultimately affect your feelings and behavior. CBT therapy is one of the most trusted and widely used forms of OCD treatment.   

what is OCD

Exposure and response prevention (ERP.)  

ERP therapy puts you in a controlled situation in which you can confront your OCD triggers and focus on not having a response. Over time ERP can lead to a significant reduction in compulsions.  

Alternate therapies  

Practices such as mindfulness, meditation, and the 'tapping' method (a type of acupressure) have also been found effective for the treatment of OCD.

Although there is little science to back these claims, many who have recovered from OCD do claim that alternate therapies did play a part in overcoming the illness.   

 The overlap between OCD and eating disorders 

OCD and Weight gain.  

Having OCD or any mental health illness can quickly lead to unwanted fluctuations in body weight. The reason why is because there is a direct overlap between mental illness and eating disorders, due to eating disorders often being rooted in anxiety, depression,, OCD, etc.   

Often ritualistic by nature, OCD, eating disorders, and other mental health illnesses all go hand in hand, for example:  

If a person with anxiety is worried about getting too skinny, they might develop behaviors characteristic of OCD, such as forming compulsions to reduce the anxious thoughts.  

These compulsions would most likely manifest themself in a way that involved eating more, avoiding exercise, and making sure that no weight is lost.  

Avoiding healthy foods and exercise would, in turn, lead to weight gain and a host of negative effects on health.  

OCD and weight gain can also be the result of the stress and further anxiety that the illness can cause.  

The only way to reduce OCD related weight gain is to work towards solving the OCD itself. 

Anxieties And Eating.  

In correspondence to OCD, anxiety can also negatively affect your eating habits. When feeling anxious you might not feel like eating, or you might make poorer food choices.  

Anxiety surrounding food will usually result in weight loss instead of gain, although both outcomes are less than desirable.  

Losing weight as a result of anxiety is a serious condition, and could end up developing into other illnesses such as bulimia or anorexia.  

Having a fear of eating in front of people, worries surrounding certain foods, and concerns about eating at certain times are all common in those with food-related anxieties.  

To avoid problems associated with anxiety and eating habits, it is always best to consult a professional counselor that can advise you toward the best treatment.  

Ways you can reduce anxiety.  

  • Meditate regularly
  • Try yoga
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Exercise often
  • Get enough high-quality sleep
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Try natural remedies such as CBD oil and chamomile tea.  

Stress and its effects on weight management.  

The effects of stress on weight loss differs from person to person. For some, stress can result in a loss in appetite and missed meals; for others, it can result in comfort eating and less considered food choices.  

The reason why stress can affect weight management could be because of the mental strain that is put on an individual, and the way that stress causes one to be less mindful of their overall health.  

Sufferers of stress often see a decline in sleep quality, healthy food choices, activity levels, and personal hygiene.  

There is also a relationship between stress hormones and weight loss. Cortisol, a type of hormone knows as the 'stress hormone' which has an effect on the body that causes it to become resistant to insulin.  

Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar by allowing glucose to move through cell walls so that the body can use it at energy.  

If the body becomes resistant to insulin, blood sugar levels will rise, making weight loss far more difficult.  

Insulin resistance can also lead to thyroid problems and type 2 diabetes.  

stress and cortisol levels weight loss

A note to leave with.  

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a misunderstood mental health illness that is often miss-interpreted and miss understood by many.  

OCD is a serious mental illness that can have a crippling impact on sufferer's lives, reduce quality of life, and lead to other mental health disorders.  

As well as being intrusive and incredibly hard to live with, OCD can also lead to troubles with weight management, especially in those who have anxieties surrounding food.  

The best way to manage and potentially treat OCD is to partake in therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or alternative therapies, including meditation.  

There is a strong link between all mental health illnesses and eating disorders, so to effectively manage weight and avoid illnesses such as anorexia, it is necessary to solve the problem at the source.  

If you are having feelings of OCD, anxiety, stress, or believe that you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, always consult a professional as early as possible. The longer you leave a mental health condition untreated. Usually, the harder it is to overcome.