Understanding OCD and ED


In the realm of mental health, it’s crucial to differentiate between various conditions to provide the most effective support and treatment. Two commonly...

In the realm of mental health, it’s crucial to differentiate between various conditions to provide the most effective support and treatment. Two commonly misunderstood disorders are Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Eating Disorders (ED). Despite their distinct features, they can sometimes overlap or share similar traits. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences between OCD and ED, shedding light on their unique characteristics.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterised by persistent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions). These obsessions can manifest in a multitude of forms, including fears of contamination, irrational beliefs about symmetry and order, or intrusive thoughts.


Eating Disorders (ED) encompass a range of conditions revolving around problematic eating behaviors and distorted body image. The three primary types include:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa: Characterised by extreme food restriction, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image.
  2. Bulimia Nervosa: Involves recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors like excessive exercise or fasting.
  3. Binge Eating Disorder: Involves recurrent episodes of consuming large quantities of food without compensatory behaviors.


Recognising the Differences

Focus of Obsession and Compulsion:

    • OCD: The obsessions and compulsions revolve around intrusive thoughts and behaviors unrelated to food or body image. These could include fears of contamination, concerns about safety, or a need for symmetry.
    • ED: The primary focus is on food, body image, and weight. Obsessions in eating disorders often center around a preoccupation with weight, shape, and food-related behaviors.


Motivation behind Behaviors:

    • OCD: The compulsions in OCD are performed to alleviate anxiety or distress caused by obsessions. They provide a temporary relief from the intrusive thoughts.
    • ED: Eating disorder behaviors, such as restriction or binging, are driven by a desire to control weight, shape, and appearance.

Potential Overlap and Comorbidity

It’s worth noting that individuals can experience both OCD and an eating disorder simultaneously. This comorbidity presents unique challenges in treatment, as the underlying issues need to be addressed in tandem.


Distinguishing between OCD and Eating Disorders is essential for providing the right support and treatment. While they share some traits, their primary focus, motivation, and impact on daily life are distinct. Recognising these differences enables mental health professionals to develop tailored approaches to help individuals on their journey to recovery. Remember, seeking help is a courageous step toward reclaiming one’s mental and physical well-being.


If you would like to enquire about mental health care at Cardinal Clinic, you can call us on 01753 869755. Alternatively, if you wish to refer yourself for mental health care, you can complete our self referral form.

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*McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.

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