Stress levels can play a large role in OCD; many individuals note that their OCD gets worse when they are under stress.
This can lead to heightened obsessions or compulsions. People with OCD rely on their rituals as a way to manage stress. Of course, the stress can increase the chances of having the obsessions as well, so it can be a circular occurrence.
Stress can lead to experiencing more obsessive thoughts or an increase in their intensity.
For example, if you hear a news story about a house being broken into, that can lead to obsessive thoughts about a burglar in your own home. That can increase anxiety, which in turn may lead to an increased chance of compulsive behaviors, such as checking locks or being sure that a burglar alarm is set over and over again.
Of course, as the compulsions increase, a person can experience more stress as a result of lack of sleep because they keep checking the locks. That lack of sleep leads to more chances for the mind to wander, possibly leading to more obsessions, more anxiety, and therefore more compulsions.
Therapists, beyond just doing therapy with a person, may also offer some suggestions for stress reduction. Some easy ways to do this follow:
• Quit smoking. Smoking increases the heart rate, making the body work harder and leading to more potential for feeling on edge or keyed up.
• Stop drinking caffeine. Caffeine, similar to cigarettes, can lead to a general feeling of agitation.
• Exercise. Some daily exercise can have a natural stress-reduction effect because exercise naturally increases serotonin levels.
• Eat right. Comfort foods may feel good in the short run, but in the long run they lead to decreases in serotonin levels, as well as a chance for increased blood pressure caused by the excess weight that people may gain from eating that food.