Somatic OCD: A Comprehensive Guide

somatic ocd

Do you ever feel like there’s something wrong with your body? That you can’t control the way it moves or feels? If so, you may be experiencing somatic OCD. This type of OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts and images about one’s physical appearance or movements. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss all aspects of somatic OCD including symptoms, treatment options, and how to live a productive life despite the disorder.

What Is Somatic OCD?

what is somatic ocd

Somatic OCD is a subtype of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that is characterized by intrusive thoughts and images regarding one’s physical appearance or movements. People with somatic OCD fixate on a particular body part or bodily function and may believe that something is wrong with them. They may also feel the need to constantly check their bodies for signs of illness or injury. It is important to note that people with somatic OCD do not have a medical condition; rather, their symptoms are the result of anxiety and fear. People with somatic OCD may also have other types of OCD, such as contamination OCD or symmetry OCD.


somatic ocd causes

The exact cause of somatic OCD is unknown, but it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is evidence to suggest that somatic OCD runs in families, so it may be partially due to genetics. Additionally, people with somatic OCD often have a history of trauma or abuse. It is thought that these experiences may play a role in the development of the disorder. It is also thought that people with certain personality traits are more likely to develop OCD, including perfectionism and neuroticism.

Additionally, people who were subjected to bullying and trauma centered around physical appearance can also develop this disorder due to their fixation and obsession with looks.


  • Intrusive thoughts about one’s physical appearance or movements
  • Compulsive checking of the body for signs of illness or injury
  • Excessive grooming behaviors (e.g., hair pulling, skin picking)
  • Avoidance of activities or situations that may trigger anxiety (e.g., avoiding mirrors, not leaving the house)
  • Excessive time spent thinking about, researching, or talking about one’s physical health
  • A feeling that something is wrong with one’s body
  • Difficulty concentrating on anything else besides one’s physical appearance and movements
  • The need to check one’s body constantly for signs of illness or injury
  • Intense anxiety and fear about bodily sensations and functions

Effects Of Somatic OCD

somatic ocd effects

Somatic OCD can have a significant impact on a person’s life.

  • The constant worry and anxiety can interfere with work, school, and personal relationships. People with somatic OCD may avoid social situations or activities that trigger their anxiety. They may also miss work or school due to illness-related absences.
  • In severe cases, people with somatic OCD may become housebound due to fear of leaving the house or encountering germs and contaminants.
  • Somatic OCD can also lead to physical complications such as skin infections from compulsive skin picking, hair loss from compulsive hair pulling, and gastrointestinal problems from avoidance of eating.
  • Excessive and unmonitored worry about physical appearance can further lead to an individual developing Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which is a related but separate mental health condition. BDD characterizes by a preoccupation with one or more flaws in appearance that is not observable or appear minor to others. People with BDD may engage in excessive grooming, dieting, and exercise behaviors as well as cosmetic surgeries.

Treatment Available

Just like any other type of mental disorder, the symptoms and effects are manageable through therapeutic intervention and self-help tips.


There are many different treatment options available for somatic OCD. The most effective treatment is exposure and response prevention (ERP), which is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. ERP involves gradually exposing oneself to the thoughts, images, and situations that trigger anxiety and learning to resist the urge to compulsively check or groom. Medication can also treat somatic OCD in conjunction with therapy. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common type of medication for OCD.

Self Help Tips

There are also several things that people with somatic OCD can do on their own to manage their symptoms.

Some self-help tips for somatic OCD include:

  • First, identify and challenge negative thoughts about the body.
  • Second, learn relaxation techniques to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Third, gradually expose yourself to situations that trigger anxiety.
  • Forth, avoid compulsive behaviors using relaxation and stress management techniques.

Moreover, you could practice self-love by incorporating the given tips:

  • Exercise regularly to reduce stress and improve mood.
  • Eat healthily and avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Get regular exercise and sleep.


Somatic OCD can be a debilitating disorder, but there is hope. With proper treatment and support, people can learn to manage their symptoms and live productive lives. Please reach out for help in case you might have symptoms. There are many resources available to support you on your journey to recovery.

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