Why OCD Affects Women Differently Than Men

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a commonly used, and perhaps overused term these days. While many people jokingly blurt out they have OCD during conversation and banter, many people who claim to have it actually don't. OCD isn't just an inkling for keeping things in order but a type of anxiety disorder that can greatly impact a person's quality of life.


OCD is marked by having obsessive and intrusive thoughts and then having to repeat certain actions based on those thoughts (via the National Institute of Mental Health). There are many ways OCD manifests, such as people thinking their hands are dirty and having to wash them a certain number of times or thinking they left the stove on and having to repeatedly check it several times in a row. 

In entertainment, several television characters who have OCD tend to be male. Consider popular characters Sheldon Cooper from "Big Bang Theory" and Adrian Monk from "Monk." However, more women have OCD than men, and it affects them very differently.

How OCD presents in women

Though OCD can affect any person regardless of age or gender, both men and women who have OCD also typically battle depression and anxiety.

In men, OCD affects single men more than coupled men and they have more symptoms that revolve around sexual-religious and aggressive dynamics, notes a review published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry). Men usually get OCD symptoms earlier in life, some even in childhood, before 10 years old. They have weaker social skills and often turn to substance abuse to mask the pain of living with the condition.


In women, OCD commonly manifests as issues with contamination and being clean. They may fear germs and dirt as well as be afraid of getting sick and have hypochondriacal symptoms. Women often experience compulsions to clean surfaces and their bodies. These OCD patterns are also heavily associated with eating disorders. Women are more likely to get OCD symptoms after the age of 10, which isn't surprising since puberty is a prime time for body issues, anxiety, depression, and fear of not fitting in.

Women and OCD

According to research in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, more women are diagnosed with OCD than men. In fact, women experience OCD almost 50% more than men. Additionally, younger people tend to be diagnosed with OCD more often than older people. Causes of OCD are varied, but common causes include genetics and personality though you can also pick up behaviors from your home environment. This is especially true if your parents have the condition.


Another cause of OCD may be a clue as to why it tends to affect women more. However, the hormonal fluctuations that occur in cisgender women contribute to existing anxiety and depression. OCD may worsen during menstruation and during pregnancy. Giving birth can also be a precursor as many develop OCD in the postpartum period. Additionally, going through trauma, assault, and domestic violence are other common causes. Though people of any gender can be violated and abused, women tend to experience these types of traumas more often.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.