OCD Or Anxiety: How To Tell The Difference?

Are you feeling constantly anxious and worried? Are these feelings impacting your life a negatively impacting your life? You may be wondering if you have OCD or anxiety. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two, but there are some key differences. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of both OCD and anxiety, as well as how to tell them apart. We will also provide tips for getting help if you think you may have either condition.

What Is OCD?

 ocd or anxiety

OCD is a mental health condition that is characterized by obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviors. People with OCD may have difficulty controlling their thoughts and may feel like they need to perform certain rituals or routines to ease their anxiety. These rituals can be time-consuming and interfere with everyday life. Common obsessions include worries about contamination, symmetry, and harm. Common compulsions include excessive hand-washing, counting, and cleaning.

What Is Anxiety?


Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience at times. It is characterized by feelings of worry, nervousness, and fear. Anxiety triggers by a specific event or situation, or it may occur without any apparent trigger. For some people, anxiety is a chronic condition that impacts their daily life. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common type of anxiety disorder. It characterizes by persistent and excessive worry about a variety of topics.

How Are OCD And Anxiety Similar?

OCD and anxiety share some common symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts, avoidance of certain situations or objects, and repetitive behaviors. Both conditions can also cause significant distress and interfere with daily life.

They also share a similar characteristic which deals with the preoccupation with irrational, made up and often unreal fears which become difficult to suppress or shake off. It is known that the obsessions are unrealistic, but this alone doesn’t make them easier to manage.

Both these disorders may or may not have some specific triggers which escalate a trail of thoughts. For example, for someone with an anxiety disorder, the thought of going out can provoke a never-ending loop of scary and fearful thoughts. Similarly, for someone with OCD, it may trigger a preoccupation with certain rituals or repeating certain behaviors again and again.

Anxiety disorders such as separation anxiety disorder and agoraphobia (fear of crowded places) or claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) can also be confused with OCD, as these fears are associated with certain objects or situations which trigger a mental response surrounding specific obsessions.

Common Symptoms


Some commonly observed similarities in the diagnosed symptoms of these two conditions include:

  • intrusive thoughts
  • hyperfixations
  • obsessions/thoughts come in the way of day-to-day activities
  • restlessness
  • overthinking
  • inability to stop the recurrence of the thoughts or behaviors
  • fear of losing control

Difference Between OCD And Anxiety

 ocd or anxiety difference


  • People with anxiety disorder tend to jump from one anxiety to another throughout their day, whereas those with OCD are more likely to obsess on particular anxiety and devote excessive attention to it.
  • According to Tom Corboy, a famous psychotherapist, the key highlight in those with OCD is that “these are not just random passing thoughts, but rather repeated thoughts that are causing great distress precisely because the thoughts are antithetical to the sufferer’s true self.”
  • Those with anxiety disorders may not perform any specific rituals or behaviors to ease their train of thought. Whereas, OCD primarily characterizes by a repetitive and obsessive need to perform certain rituals to satisfy intrusive and irrational thoughts/fears.

Diagnosis Needed

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) classifies OCD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder as separate disorders with their given sets of signs and symptoms. A clinical psychologist or psychiatrist may evaluate and assess a client based on the established symptoms to formulate an official diagnosis.


The DSM-5 states the following criterion for OCD diagnosis:

  • The presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both.

Obsessions are defined by:

  • Recurrent and persistent thoughts urges, or images that experience as intrusive and unwanted and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.
  • The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges) or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action (i.e., by performing a compulsion).

Compulsions are defined by:

  • Repetitive behaviors (i.e., hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (i.e., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.

For Anxiety

The DSM-5 states the following criterion for anxiety disorder diagnosis:

  • The presence of one (or more) of the following conditions:
  • Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least six months, about several events or activities (such as work or school performance).
  • An individual experiences difficulty controlling the worry.
  • The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms present for more days than not for the past six months)
  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank

In addition, a physical exam and an additional blood test can be further additional recommendations. The doctor may also ask about your medical history, medication, lifestyle, and other influencing factors to determine the cause and intensity of the disorder.

Treatment Options

It is important to note that both anxiety and OCD can be treatable. A therapist will ask about your symptoms, thoughts, and behaviors to treat the particular disorder you may have.

  • Anxiety treatments typically include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) helps people with anxiety learn how to manage their thoughts and emotions. Medication can also help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
  • Treatment for OCD usually includes Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy and medication. ERP is a type of CBT that helps people with OCD face their fears and learn to control their responses to them.
  • Medications are also available for treating both these conditions.

Disclaimer: Contact your healthcare provider for a legal prescription, needed dosage, side effects, and efficacy to ensure effective treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or OCD, please reach out for help. Mantra Care has counselors available 24/7 to provide you with accessible and affordable virtual therapy sessions.


OCD and anxiety share similar characteristics and symptoms. However, there are some key differences between the two conditions. OCD is a mental health condition that classifies by obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviors. People with OCD may have difficulty controlling their thoughts and may feel like they need to perform certain rituals or routines to ease their anxiety. Anxiety is a chronic condition that impacts their daily life. If you think you may have either OCD or anxiety, it is important to speak with a mental health professional to get an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

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