Depression and Compulsive Behaviors: What’s the Connection?

Depression and Compulsive Behaviors: What’s the Connection?

Depression impacts everyone differently. Though it’s the most common mental health condition across the globe, not everyone experiences all of the same symptoms and connections.

For some people, depression tends to create compulsive behaviors. Additionally, people already living with conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) tend to be more susceptible to other mental health conditions, like depression.

So, what’s the link?

Compulsions and Control
The problem with compulsions and depression is that they both have links to serotonin in the brain—in different ways. When there is a chemical imbalance, symptoms associated with OCD can increase the symptoms associated with depression.

Because depression often comes with feelings of sadness and hopelessness, compulsive behaviors can be used as a way to “self-treat” some of those issues. It’s a way to take back control. But, it’s often done in ways that might seem obsessive.

Keep in mind that compulsive behaviors are repetitive (and often uncontrollable), so while someone performing them may seem as though they have OCD, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

People can perform compulsive behaviors on their own as a way to make them feel more comforted and in control, especially if they’re dealing with negative thoughts.

What Are the Complications?
So, if compulsive behaviors help those dealing with depression, what’s the problem? Well, the actions aren’t necessarily helpful. Compulsive behaviors can sometimes be harmful or dangerous, depending on what they are. Because they aren’t easily-controlled, it takes the person performing them out of reality for a while. For someone with a mental health condition, that’s problematic.

Most people who perform compulsive behaviors also don’t necessarily like them. They can start to feel more like a trap than a way to relieve anxiety.

You might not even notice the compulsions at first. They might be a way to hide or alleviate other symptoms of depression. But, over time, they can become worse and more frequent.

Another major complication is the treatment if you’re on any medication. Medications of conditions like OCD can often clash with those prescribed for depression.

It’s vital to recognize whether you have both conditions or if you’re using compulsive behaviors as a way to manage other symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can accurately diagnose both things. With that in mind, let’s talk about how an official diagnosis can help with your depression and compulsions.

The Proper Diagnosis and Treatment
If you have a depression diagnosis, it’s essential to talk to your doctor or therapist quickly about any compulsive behaviors that have started. Again, they’re often a way to mask other symptoms. But, masking those symptoms doesn’t make the depression go away. And, if the behaviors are dangerous, you could be doing more harm than good.

Additionally, if a healthcare provider has diagnosed you with another disorder (like OCD) and you’re having thoughts of hopelessness, you should ask your doctor about the possibility of depression. The two often link together because of the serotonin impact in the brain.

No matter your diagnosis, getting treatment for depression and compulsive behaviors will be necessary. It’s easy to feel like you’re in a trap when you’re dealing with both problems. But, you don’t have to feel that way forever.

The right kinds of medication can help you with both issues. Therapy can also be a great tool in dealing with depression and compulsivity.

If you’re struggling with the effects of depression or you’ve already been diagnosed, feel free to contact us or to set up an appointment.

Learning how to deal with and manage compulsive behaviors quickly is essential for your safety and wellbeing. Together, we can focus on different ways to manage your symptoms so you can find freedom once again.


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