The Relationship between OCD and Eating Disorders

The Relationship between OCD and Eating Disorders

By: Suzanne Zaugg

Eating disorders are characterized as obsessive, repetitive thoughts, and ritualistic behaviors. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic long lasting disorder that characterizes uncontrollable thoughts or behaviors that an individual may feel they need to repeat certain things over and over. Statistics show that people with eating disorders are more likely to show signs of OCD, due to the overlapping traits of both OCD and eating disorders.

Understanding the similarities and differences between eating disorders and OCD can help develop a more comprehensive understanding of a patient that presents both of these disorders. People with an eating disorder may experience intrusive thoughts about food and body image, and may develop ritualistic behaviors. Examples of ritualistic behavior pertaining to eating disorders include body checking for any changes in shape or size, frequent weight checking, and skipping meals. An important distinction between OCD and eating disorders lies in the relationship between the thought and action of the individual.  People with OCD are typically interested in ridding themselves of their thoughts and feelings whereas; people with eating disorders may feel more tied to the components of this disorder and feels as if it is a part of their identity.

Since both eating disorders and OCD share overlapping diagnostic characteristics, treatments will look similar. Both exposure therapy and cognitive behavior therapy are very helpful treatments for both eating disorders and OCD. Exposure therapy is a psychological treatment that involves exposing the patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger. Also, cognitive-behavior therapy is a treatment approach that helps you recognize negative or unhelpful thought patters.

If you or someone you know is seeking therapy for an eating disorder, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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