OCD and Suicidal Thoughts

November 17, 2023

The incessant cycle of obsessions and compulsions associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can significantly impact an individual’s well-being. Feelings of shame, guilt, and frustration are common among those with OCD as they struggle to regain control over their lives. This constant emotional turmoil may lead some individuals to experience suicidal thoughts as they desperately seek relief from their overwhelming pain. It is crucial to recognize the severity of this struggle and the link between OCD and suicidal thoughts.

Unpacking Suicidal Thoughts in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Suicidal thoughts among individuals with OCD represent the extreme emotional distress and anguish they have due to their condition. These intrusive thoughts are not a direct symptom of OCD. Rather, they are a consequence of the immense psychological turmoil caused by relentless obsessions and compulsions.

Living with OCD can be an exhausting battle, as individuals may feel trapped in an unending cycle of fear, doubt, and anxiety. The persistent nature of these thoughts can lead to feelings of hopelessness, despair, and even self-blame for being unable to control their obsessions. As the severity of OCD symptoms increases, so does the risk of suicidal ideation. 

What Is the Connection Between OCD and Suicidal Thoughts?

The connection between OCD and suicidal thoughts is complex and multifaceted. A review of several studies by Current Neuropharmacology found that “OCD increases significantly the odds of having a lifetime suicidal ideation as compared to the general population and a history of lifetime suicide attempts.”

The intense distress caused by OCD can contribute to the development of suicidal ideation in several ways. Firstly, the relentless obsessions that individuals with OCD experience can be intrusive, disturbing, and overwhelming. 

These thoughts often center around fears, insecurities, or catastrophic events that play on a loop in their minds. The emotional toll of these intrusive thoughts, combined with an inability to control them, can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Secondly, the compulsions associated with OCD serve as temporary relief from anxiety but are not a long-term solution. Individuals may feel compelled to engage in ritualistic behaviors repeatedly in an attempt to alleviate their obsessive thoughts. However, the constant need for reassurance and repetition can be exhausting and impact one’s quality of life. In such cases, when individuals cannot escape this cycle or see any improvement, they may question if life is worth living.

Furthermore, there is evidence suggesting that certain subtypes of OCD are more strongly associated with suicidal ideation than others. For example, individuals who have violent obsessions may fear losing control and harming themselves or others.

OCD, Suicidal Thoughts, and Self-Harm

While OCD and suicidal thoughts are interconnected, it is crucial to address the additional concern of self-harm. Self-harm is the intentional act of physical harm done to oneself. Self-harm is often a maladaptive coping mechanism for emotional pain or distress.

In some cases, individuals with OCD may resort to self-harming behaviors as a means of temporarily alleviating their anxiety or overwhelming emotions. These actions can take various forms, such as cutting, burning, scratching, or hitting oneself. It’s crucial to note that self-harm is not a specific symptom of OCD. Rather, self-harm is a response driven by the intense emotional strain brought about by the disorder.

Self-harm may serve as an outlet for individuals with OCD when they feel trapped in their intrusive thoughts and rituals. By inflicting physical pain on themselves, they may experience temporary relief from emotional anguish or regain a sense of control over their inner turmoil. However, it is vital to understand that self-harming behaviors are not healthy coping mechanisms and pose serious risks both physically and mentally.

Signs of OCD

Signs of OCD can vary from person to person, but some common indicators include:

  • Obsessions: Recurrent and persistent urges, thoughts, or images that are intrusive and unwanted. These thoughts often cause significant distress and anxiety.
  • Compulsions: Repetitive behaviors or mental acts individuals feel the need to do in response to their obsessions. 
  • Excessive need for orderliness: A strong desire to arrange things symmetrically or perfectly aligned. Any deviation from this desired order may lead to intense discomfort and the compulsion to rearrange items repeatedly.
  • Fear of contamination: An excessive fear of germs, dirt, or illness that results in compulsive cleaning rituals and the avoidance of certain situations or objects perceived as “contaminated.”
  • Checking rituals: Frequent checking behavior due to doubts about safety (e.g., repeatedly ensuring doors are locked) is related to an exaggerated fear of harm to oneself or others.
  • Hoarding tendencies: Persistent difficulty discarding possessions regardless of their actual value, leading to cluttered living spaces and distress when faced with parting with belongings.
  • Mental rituals and praying excessively: Engaging in silent prayers, counting numbers repetitively mentally, and repetitive phrases silently spoken as ways of reducing anxiety associated with obsessions.
  • Difficulties functioning: OCD symptoms significantly interfere with an individual’s ability to carry out normal daily activities.

Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

Signs of suicidal thoughts can vary from person to person, but some common indicators include:

  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Talking about death or dying
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Changes in behavior or mood
  • Giving away possessions
  • Reckless behaviors

Risk Factors for Suicide

It’s important to remember that suicide risk is complex and can vary among individuals. Some common risk factors include mental health disorders, previous suicide attempts, family history, frequent social isolation, significant stress, history of trauma or abuse, impulsive tendencies, and experiencing a major loss.


The treatment for OCD and suicidal thoughts involves a combination of evidence-based treatments, individual counseling, group counseling, peer support, medication management, education, and ongoing support. Inpatient treatment and hospitalization are also appropriate in certain situations where there is a risk of harm to oneself. 

OCD and Suicidal Thoughts Treatment in Chattanooga, TN

Don’t let OCD and suicidal thoughts overwhelm you. You are not alone, and help is available from Time Wellness in Chattanooga, TN. We offer personalized, compassionate treatment plans in a caring and supportive environment. Our goal is to help individuals regain control over their lives, find effective coping strategies, and experience improved mental well-being.

Remember, there’s always hope for a brighter future by contacting us today