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OCD and Stress

Effective Stress Management can Reduce OCD Symptoms


Updated November 11, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

If you have OCD, you know that one of the biggest triggers of OCD symptoms is stress. While there are a number of ways that people choose to cope with stress, not all coping strategies are equally effective –- in fact, some can do more harm than good. Let’s review the right and wrong ways to manage your stress to help keep your OCD symptoms under control.

Good ways of coping with stress include:

  • Proper sleep: An average of eight hours a night will do for most people.

  • Frequent exercise: 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week can help reduce anxiety.

  • Social support: Support groups can reduce feelings of isolation. Supportive friends and family can also provide a welcome source of distraction from symptoms.

  • Meditation: Meditation and deep breathing exercises calm the mind and body, allowing you to recuperate from the effects of stress.

  • Sticking to your treatment regimen: You’ll get the best results by coping with your symptoms every day, instead of putting things off until they are really bad.

Poor ways of coping with stress include:

  • Using alcohol or other drugs: Although your symptoms might feel better temporarily, they often become worse when you stop using.

  • Sweeping problems under the rug: They aren’t going anywhere and will only return stronger.

  • Isolating yourself: You need the support of your friends and family to cope with OCD. Also, consider joining a support group in your community.

  • Blaming yourself for your OCD: Are you harder on yourself than you would be with a friend who had this illness? Practice being kind to yourself.

  • Trying to control things that you can't: Control what you can and let the rest take care of itself. This can be hard, but it can relieve the pressure of solving all of life’s problems.
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