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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow Is OCD Neurodivergent? Understanding the Connection

Is OCD Neurodivergent? Understanding the Connection

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Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: January 15, 2024
4 min read 1048 Views 0 Comments
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When repetitive behaviors meet unique brain wiring

is ocd neurodivergent

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) combines unwanted, repetitive thoughts and actions. It’s a complex mental condition, now increasingly discussed alongside a key term: neurodivergence.

But what’s neurodivergence? Simply put, it’s when the brain works differently, influencing how one thinks and reacts. This concept, introduced in 1998 by Judy Singer, aims to shift focus from what’s ‘lacking’ in mental health to celebrating diverse brain functions. Instead of labeling brains as ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal,’ Singer proposed ‘neurotypical’ for standard thought patterns, and ‘neurodivergent’ for unique ones.

This easy-to-follow guide delves into OCD and its place within neurodiversity, offering insights on causes and coping strategies. Dive in to learn more about the world of OCD and embrace brain diversity!

Is OCD Neurodivergent?

OCD is classified as neurodivergent because an individual has intrusive thoughts, repeated patterns, and actions. They may even have difficulties resisting compulsions or filtering off intrusive thoughts. As a result, individuals process their thoughts and behave differently than what is considered neurotypical.

Researchers revealed that people with OCD have unusual activity levels in specific regions of their brains, as their brains show more activity in thinking, judgment, and motor functions.

The neurodiversity movement aims to change people’s perceptions of OCD. It rejects the notion of OCD as a disorder, instead viewing it as a neurological difference with a distinctive way of thinking and experiencing the world.

OCD sufferers gain much from neurodiversity. It not only promotes greater equality, but it also inhibits the perception of people with OCD as “different” from everyone else.

What Causes OCD?

The specific cause of OCD is unknown to experts. It is theorized that genetics, brain anomalies, and the environment all play a role. It usually begins in early adulthood or adolescence. However, it can also begin in childhood. Men and women are equally affected by OCD. It also appears to be inherited.

Changes in the current lifestyle, such as moving, starting a family or divorce, or starting a new school or career, can also cause OCD.

Other factors include: the death of a loved one or another form of emotional trauma, history of abuse, illness (if you have the flu, for example, you may start a cycle of stressing about germs and washing compulsively), serotonin deficiency, overactivity in certain parts of the brain, issues at work or school, and challenges within a key relationship.

OCD can also be caused by anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

How to Manage OCD? 5 Valuable Tips From a Psychologist

OCD is a complex illness, and finding the best treatment might take time. However, there are certain things you can do to begin addressing your OCD symptoms. Here are some helpful techniques to do when your intrusive thoughts start to surface, as well as some ways to help relieve any signs of anxiety disorder.

#1 Try to identify triggers

The first step in controlling OCD is identifying the triggers, which are the thoughts or events that cause your obsessions and compulsions. Create a list of your triggers each day and the obsessions they generate. Rate the severity of your fear or anxiety in each event, followed by the compulsions or mental techniques you use to cope.

Keeping a record of your triggers can assist you in anticipating your impulses. And by anticipating your obsessive tendencies before they arise, you can try to reduce them. For example, if you have a compulsive habit of ensuring that doors are locked or appliances are switched off, try locking the door or turning off the appliance with additional care the first time.

#2 Engage in regular exercise

Exercise is a natural and powerful anti-anxiety treatment that aids in the management of OCD by retraining your mind when obsessive thoughts and compulsions develop.

Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety in people with OCD. Get 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise each day for maximum benefit. 10 minutes several times daily is as helpful as a longer period, especially if you pay attention to the movement process.

#3 Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the ability to examine your thoughts without judgment. According to the study, mindfulness-based cognitive techniques may aid in the reduction of cognitive distortions in OCD.

Mindfulness exercises help you develop a more objective view of your obsessive thoughts. They might be part of your therapy, but you can also try them independently. You may even use apps to track your progress.

#4 Join a support group

You are not alone in your fight with OCD, and joining a support group might help to remind you of that. OCD support groups allow you to discuss your personal experiences while learning from others dealing with similar issues.

OCD can worsen when you feel helpless and alone. It’s, therefore, important to develop a solid support network. The more you are connected to other people, the less vulnerable you will feel. And simply talking to someone who understands your concerns and urges can make them feel less dangerous.

It is also essential to invest in relationships with family and friends. Talking about your fears and urges in front of others can make them seem less genuine and dangerous.

#5 Consider therapy

If you think your OCD symptoms are significantly affecting your quality of life or becoming too much for you to bear, consult a mental health professional.

Talking with someone who has treated OCD before can help you accurately diagnose your symptoms and find a treatment tailored to your needs.

Exposure response prevention (ERP) is one of the newest therapies for OCD. This therapy helps you manage your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors by progressively exposing you to what triggers your OCD.

A Word From a Psychologist

You are considered neurodivergent if you have been diagnosed with mental health conditions such as OCD, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or autism spectrum disorder. However, if you have never been formally diagnosed but strongly identify with the criteria for one or more categories of neurodivergence, you should consult with a professional to be certain.

Remember that neurodivergence is not a medical term, a mental illness, or a diagnosis. However, it can be linked to other mental illnesses and physical issues that can be diagnosed, treated, and possibly cured.

Neurodivergent people may exhibit different signs of neurodivergence. This means that people who are neurodivergent may exhibit symptoms in various ways. The best way to identify if you are neurodivergent is to explore this issue and visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Your doctor will discuss several therapy options, depending on the problem causing your divergence.

Conclusion

Everyone has intrusive thoughts from time to time. While they can be strange or even upsetting, most people don’t dwell on them. However, if you have OCD, these ideas might become obsessive. You may struggle to cope, and they may make it difficult for you to operate in your regular life.

The good news is that several treatment choices exist for various conditions, including therapies, lifestyle changes, medications, support groups, and self-help tools, such as mental health apps.

For example, a person suffering from OCD may benefit from mindful activities, exercise, and behavioral therapy, like exposure response prevention, acceptance and commitment therapy, and cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT).

Lucy Nongari is a freelance health writer, editor, and content strategist. She has a passion for wellness and a dedication to promoting a healthy lifestyle. Lucy translates complex health and medical information into accessible and engaging content to educate, inspire, and empower people to make positive changes and take control of their
well-being.

Lucy believes in progression and empowering individuals, and that’s why when she's not writing or researching, you’ll find her mentoring teens or spending time with family.

The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: January 15, 2024
4 min read 1048 Views 0 Comments
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