Relationship Between OCD and Social Anxiety Disorder

OCD sometimes goes along with SAD.
OCD can co-occur with SAD. moodboard / Getty Images

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are both thought of as anxiety disorders. How common is it for a person to have both disorders and is there a relationship between them? If you have both disorders, you may wonder what the best treatment would be.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involves uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions) and actions and rituals to try and manage them (compulsions).

The person with OCD has thoughts that are persistent, intrusive, and unwelcome, and often accompanied by an urgent need to perform an action such as washing hands or checking on something.

Social anxiety disorder is characterized by a fear of being publicly scrutinized in a way that will lead to being humiliated or rejected. Those with SAD may have extreme shyness and avoid social settings.

Social situations, in general, may lead to discomfort or panic attacks if you have social anxiety, or you may have a specific social situation that provokes fear or anxiety, such as performing in public.

People with broader social anxiety are more likely to seek treatment then those with specific performance fears, as it has a larger impact on their daily life.

Relationship Between Social Anxiety Disorder and OCD

People with OCD are at increased risk of developing depression and other anxiety disorders. Comorbidity rates of social anxiety disorder (SAD) and OCD have been variably reported, but are quite common.

Like those with social anxiety disorder, only a small proportion of those diagnosed with OCD receive treatment, and it is usually many years after symptoms begin. When not treated, both conditions can severely impact your quality of life.

Both OCD and SAD have earlier ages of onset than some other disorders, often appearing in childhood or adolescence, which is another common feature.

The most common comorbidity with OCD is other anxiety disorders and depression. Almost half of people with OCD also are diagnosed with a depressive order at some point in their lifetime. This can affect comorbidities present.

Treatment of Co-Occurring SAD and OCD

Both OCD and social anxiety disorder respond well to treatment. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first-line medication treatment for both conditions, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown effective for both disorders.

If you cope with both SAD and OCD, your course of treatment will ideally consist of medication combined with CBT specific to each disorder.

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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."