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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Does Anxiety and OCD Make You More Sensitive?

by Dr. Craig April, Director of The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

Most people who struggle with an anxiety disorder or OCD tend to be more sensitive than the rest. This is not a negative perspective nor does it have anything to do with weakness.


As I see often at The April Center, it can be explained by a neurobiological sensitivity. For example, most with an anxiety disorder or OCD tend to have more sensitive systems. This seems to create a variety of experiences, such as frequently having little aches, pains or ailments, vulnerability to medication's side effects, struggles with certain sounds, noise and environmental over-stimulation, and excessive observation of bodily sensations.

This sensitivity can also effect the emotional side of experience. For example, individuals with an anxiety disorder or OCD tend to be more sensitive to their emotions, meaning that they sometimes seem to feel both joy and pain more intensely.

Being "sensitive" seems to come with society's strong negative connotation. And yet, this sensitivity offers the possibility of increased self-awareness enabling one to engage in self-care more easily. Being "sensitive" can also offer meaningful experiences in life. Plus, sensitive people can often detect other's feelings more easily, which can deepen the quality of relationships as they connect.

Part of the focus during effective OCD or anxiety treatment, called CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), is on addressing how neurobiological sensitivity impacts one's thoughts and then feelings. For example, a common struggle (not often mentioned in other literature) for those with OCD can be certain sounds, like someone's chewing or breathing. These can often send one with OCD "through the roof" of frustration and irritation. It is easy to personalize these experiences and get angry at the "noisy" perpetrator when awareness of this sensitivity is lacking. With this awareness can come greater self control - a first step in reducing anxiety-based conflicts in relationships.

So, if you struggle with anxiety or OCD and feel you're more sensitive than most, don't be ashamed or self-critical. Awareness and Acceptance of this neurobiological sensitivity can go a long way.

All the best,


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