OCD and Anger

Anger and OCD - Chicago Counseling Centerby Carolyn Moriarty, LCPC

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by the presence of disturbing thoughts or images (obsessions) that are intrusive and unwanted. The nature of these obsessions are distressing and experiencing them on a daily can cause an individual to feel that they are inherently immoral or are likely to end up committing an immoral act.

Individuals will engage in repetitive mental or behavioral rituals (compulsions) that help them to feel that they are safeguarding themselves from these possibilities. These compulsions are effective in the short-term because they can immediately extinguish intense guilt, shame and anxiety. However, the relationship between obsessions and compulsions is cyclical, with one only serving to reinforce and perpetuate the other.


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What is the relationship between OCD and anger?

It is important to realize that OCD is not an “anger management” issue. People with OCD are not any more or less angry than people without OCD.

It is human nature to assume that we have ultimate control over our lives. Any failure to manipulate or change our circumstances leads can lead to frustration, irritability or even anger. This is especially true with individuals with OCD, since a low tolerance for uncertainty is an inherent part of the disorder. Any patterns of anger or irritability are usually a result of extreme difficulty accept the way things currently are, along with an intense conviction that things could and should be different.

Is anger a common side effect of OCD?

Anger and OCD - Chicago Counseling CenterAnger or irritability that results from OCD may be more noticeable in children, who are inherently less capable of expressing their frustration verbally.

Children with OCD may also work very hard to hide their obsessions and compulsions in situations where they fear judgement or punishment, such as school. They may be exhausted from this effort by the end of the day and have a “meltdown” once they in the safety of their homes.

Below are the some behavioral symptoms of children with OCD that could be viewed as “anger”:

  • low frustration tolerance
  • short temper
  • decreased focus and concentration
  • verbal outbursts
  • refusal to do certain activates or go certain places

How to handle this anger

While taking responsibility for self-growth can be empowering and productive, it is also necessary to give yourself permission to let whatever happens, happen. Give yourself permission to forth your best effort and to not be so personally tied to outcomes.  Give yourself permission to stop listening and comparing yourself to people who are in different life circumstances and life stages. Ask yourself honestly: is the problem due to a lack motivation toward reaching your goal? Or is the discontentment a result of the shame you are carrying around while trying to reach it? If it is the latter, try to accept these feelings instead of resisting or avoiding them. Participating in a tug of war with your emotions only leads to more needless struggle.

Once you identified and accepted these feelings, then what? It is still important to envision what you want out of life and take small steps toward reaching that goal. But keep in mind that you are still just a human being—some days you will have motivation and some days you might not because you are going through something. You may need to experience struggles in order to learn lessons that will enrich your future endeavors.

While core symptoms of OCD are rooted in genetics and cannot be eliminated by therapy alone, specialized types of treatment will go a long way in helping children and adults cope with their emotions. In addition to learning strategic skills that will help them manage their symptoms, many individuals find it helpful to talk about their feelings and concerns. If you feel that you or your child may be struggling with anger or other distress related to OCD, advocate for a psychological assessment or schedule an appointment with a mental health professional today.

Seeking Mental Health Support

If you feel that you or a loved one may be experiencing some of the signs and symptoms associated with OCD, it may be time to speak with a professional. Scheduling an appointment with Chicago Counseling Center may be the first step among many for the battle against OCD. 


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