Can OCD Make You Angry?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has been associated with anger, but the connection is complicated. Thus, while people with OCD may be more likely to have anger episodes, it is not that people with OCD are necessarily more aggressive or angry. 

This article talks about the link between OCD and anger, the underlying causes of anger episodes in people with OCD, and how to manage anger with consideration of those underlying causes.

frustrated woman

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OCD and Anger: What's the Link?

Some studies have found a link between OCD and anger in that anger episodes may be more common among people with OCD, but other factors like anxiety modify the link. So, while there may be a link, anger is not necessarily an OCD thing. 

For example, one study that looked at anger rumination (tendency to dwell on frustrating experiences and to recall past anger experiences) and OCD found that while people with OCD and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) showed greater anger rumination than people without these conditions, people with OCD or GAD did not significantly differ in levels of anger rumination. 

Furthermore, the expression of anger may result from challenges with regulating emotions in and of itself. Research has shown that higher levels of anger and suppression may be correlated with OCD, but it is not clear-cut. There are factors such as nonacceptance of negative emotions, dysfunctional beliefs, and maladaptive emotion regulation strategies that may be involved. 

In addition, medication may be at play in the relationship between OCD and anger. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants commonly prescribed for people with OCD. SSRIs, which increase serotonin in the brain, have been shown to have an antiaggression effect.

It is important to note that many studies of OCD and anger have small sample sizes, meaning there were not as many participants as desired. This should be kept in mind when generalizing the findings between OCD and anger. More research is needed among larger populations to clarify the relationship between OCD and anger, including which factors, such as anxiety, may impact those pathways.

Causes of Anger Episodes in People With OCD

There is no hard-and-fast cause of anger episodes in people living with OCD. Several studies have noted that people with OCD self-report more anger and a tendency to suppress that anger than people without OCD. However, one study that used a way to measure implicit aggression among people with OCD found, contrary to their expectations, a more peaceful implicit self-concept than health controls. More research is needed to better understand self-concept around anger and aggression among people with OCD. 

One hypothesis is that an inflated sense of responsibility, such as regarding their safety and the safety of others, can cause someone to become frustrated and angry when they can't control the situation. So, paradoxically, the anger may be stemming from a place of wanting to do no harm or ensure no harm is done to others.

Other factors that may be present include frustration when loved ones don't accommodate compulsive behaviors and prolonged stress and anger at having to cope with OCD.

Signs of Anger Episodes in People With OCD

On the outside, anger episodes in people with OCD don’t look any different from those of people without OCD. Anger episodes may include:

  • Yelling
  • Saying hurtful things
  • Swearing
  • Throwing things
  • Being aggressive 
  • Hurting yourself or others

On the inside, however, people with OCD may suffer more from anger as they are more likely to direct their anger inward. This can escalate into serious negative emotions and behaviors, including:

  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Thoughts of hating yourself and feeling worthless
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

Angry outbursts can happen to anyone, regardless of whether you have OCD or not. However, having OCD can make the experience of those episodes worse. This is because anger can cause shame since anger goes against the high moral standards most people with OCD hold for themselves.

Shame can also result from the hurt people with OCD feel they have inflicted on others, which conflicts with their intense sense of responsibility for causing no harm to others. Anger episodes can’t always be predicted, but the stress of living with OCD can be helped.

Anger Management

The first step in managing anger with OCD is to understand what the triggers are. For example:

  • Does the anger come from the unending frustration of repeatedly trying to get rid of intrusive thoughts without success?
  • Is the intensity of the anger related to efforts to suppress unacceptable emotions?
  • Could the anger relate to frustrations at not being able to perform a compulsion "perfectly"?

Recognizing and better understanding the underlying causes and dynamics involved in excessive anger in OCD is important, particularly given how prone to intense self-judgment those with OCD can be.

Next, managing OCD will help manage anger. OCD treatment, such as medication and therapy, can significantly help people manage OCD symptoms and thus live with less distress on a day-to-day basis.

While medication alone can be helpful, certain psychotherapy approaches such as exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy have been shown to have a long-lasting positive effect on OCD symptoms. Other psychotherapy approaches can help one work on a healthier self-concept, emotional regulation, and acceptance, all of which can help manage anxiety and stress before it turns to anger.

Stress management techniques can help manage anger, regardless of whether someone has OCD or not, but they may be particularly helpful for those living with OCD. Some examples include:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Journaling

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Regardless of whether someone experiences excessive anger with OCD, getting help from a healthcare provider or mental health professional is important for managing OCD symptoms. Sometimes, talking with a healthcare provider is the first step to seeking mental health treatment.

You don’t need to wait until things feel really bad before seeking help. If you are wondering whether you have OCD or if you have been diagnosed but are struggling with management, talk to your healthcare provider or therapist. It’s OK to feel angry when living with OCD, and it’s normal. Professional help can help you manage anger that stems from the frustration of living with OCD.


OCD has been linked with anger, but the relationship is complex. Underlying factors such as anxiety, depression, a lack of control over OCD symptoms and holding yourself to impeccably high standards can lead to anger.

Managing OCD is a crucial step to managing anger from living with OCD. OCD treatment and stress management can help with the distress that comes with OCD symptoms as well as help one work on a healthier self-concept, both of which can lead to less anger and better ways to cope.

A Word From Verywell

Living with OCD can be challenging, with or without experiencing anger on top of OCD symptoms. However, anger is a normal reaction to the challenges of living with OCD on a daily basis.

The lack of control you may feel when dealing with intrusive thoughts and subsequent compulsions can be extremely frustrating and exhausting. So, of course anger can surface. It is important to remember anger is not unique to OCD.

And just because anger episodes may accompany OCD, it does not make someone living with OCD an angry person. Also, OCD does not make someone violent. Destigmatizing OCD and educating friends and family about what it’s like to live with OCD can help others understand how anger can be a natural consequence of dealing with OCD on a daily basis. Know that no one living with OCD is alone in how they are feeling. And help is out there.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does OCD cause mood swings?

    Mood instability is estimated to be present in 40% to 60% of people with common mental health conditions, including OCD. However, it is not a primary symptom of OCD. More research is needed to better understand if and how impaired signal pathways in the brain, which is the case with OCD, can cause mood instability at the emotional and behavioral levels.

  • Can OCD make you violent?

    It should not be assumed that because there is a link between OCD and anger that people with OCD are dangerous. In fact, people with OCD are often mentally grappling with fear that they could cause harm to others and wishing they could stop it.

    Furthermore, such violent intrusive thoughts are so against their self-concept that they lead to terrible guilt and shame, which causes more harm to themselves than anyone else.

  • Can OCD damage your brain?

    OCD does not cause damage to your brain. Rather, research suggests that OCD is associated with communication problems between parts of the brain. Serotonin is an important brain chemical that is typically thought to be dysregulated in people with OCD. Brain scans of people with OCD have shown that SSRIs and therapy can help improve connections and communication in the brain.

  • Does OCD ever go away?

    OCD is usually a chronic condition, but it can be managed both in the short- and long-term. Living with OCD doesn’t have to mean feeling the effects of OCD every day. Getting treatment will help manage OCD symptoms, which is especially important when going through a tough, stressful time that may cause OCD flare-ups. Other times, people with OCD may feel great and relieved of their OCD symptoms. Just because there is no cure for OCD, doesn’t mean someone with OCD will feel the effects forever. Relief is possible.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  7. Yale School of Medicine. Frequently asked questions about OCD.

  8. International OCD Foundation. What causes OCD?

By Emily Brown, MPH
Emily is a health communication consultant, writer, and editor at EVR Creative, specializing in public health research and health promotion. With a scientific background and a passion for creative writing, her work illustrates the value of evidence-based information and creativity in advancing public health.