Don’t be so hard on yourself…it could lead to OCD and anxiety

Don’t be so hard on yourself…it could lead to OCD and anxiety: Scientists discover the disorders are more common in those who blame themselves when things go wrong

  • Are also more common in people who spend too long mulling over problems
  • OCD and anxiety sufferers are ‘tortured by negative thinking’ and ‘always worry’
  • But simply questioning why you are fretting could be all it takes to snap out of it 

People who are too hard on themselves may be more likely to develop OCD or anxiety, a study suggests.

Those who blame themselves when things go wrong were more likely to have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Researchers said those with OCD are ‘tortured’ by ‘negative thinking’, while those with GAD ‘worry about everything’.

But simply questioning why you are fretting could be all it takes to snap out of the bad habit, they added. 

People who are too hard on themselves may be more likely to develop OCD or anxiety (stock)

The research was carried out by Hiroshima University, Japan, and led by Dr Yoshinori Sugiura, from the department of behavioral sciences. 

‘People with OCD [are] tortured by repeatedly occurring negative thinking and they take some strategy to prevent it,’ Dr Sugiura said.

‘And GAD is a very pervasive type of anxiety. [Patients] worry about everything.’  

GAD is a long-term condition that causes a person to feel anxious about a range of issues, not just one specific event, NHS Choices reports. 

It is thought to affect more than one in ten people at some point in their life, Anxiety UK statistics show. 

And in the US, 40million suffer every year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 

OCD is an anxiety disorder that causes obsessions – unwelcome thoughts that repeatedly appear in your mind – and compulsions – repetitive activities to reduce anxiety caused by the obsession, according to the charity Mind.


Anxiety is a normal part of life that affects different people in different ways at different times.

Whereas stress can come and go, anxiety often persists and does not always have an obvious cause.

Along with depression, anxiety is among the most common mental-health condition in the UK, affecting 8.2million people in 2013 alone. 

Around 40million adults suffer from the condition in the US every year. 

Anxiety can make a person imagine things in their life are worse than they are or that they are going mad.

Although it evolved as part of the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in our caveman days to avoid danger, anxiety can be inappropriately activated in everyday life when stress builds up.

It can have a clear cause, such as moving house or having surgery. However, sometimes little life events build up until a person is unable to cope, with anxiety then taking them by surprise.

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Increased heart rate and muscle tension
  • Hyperventilation and dizziness
  • Nausea
  • A tight band across the chest
  • Tension headaches
  • Hot flushes
  • Sweating 
  • ‘Jelly legs’
  • Shaking
  • Feeling like you are choking 
  • Tingling in the hands and feet

Some psychological symptoms are:

  • Thinking you are going mad or losing control
  • Thinking you may die or get ill
  • Feeling people are staring at you
  • Feeling detached from others or on edge

Treatment often involves counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. 

Activates like yoga, exercise, reading and socialising can help to manage anxiety. 

It affects as many as 1.2 per cent of people in the UK, OCD UK statistics show. And one in 40 adults in the US suffer to some extent, according to Beyond OCD.

OCD-like behaviours, such as repeatedly checking if a door is locked, are common. However, it goes from a habit to a disorder if the action becomes intense and frequent. 

‘For example, you’re using two audio recorders instead of one,’ Dr Sugiura said. ‘It’s just in case one fails.

‘Having two recorders will enhance your work but if you prepare [too] many recorders, that will interfere with your work.’ 

Dr Sugiura claims there are too many ‘theories’ into what causes psychiatric disorders, which confuses the specialists that treat them.  

To get to the bottom of the onset of OCD and anxiety, the researchers first identified three forms of what they call ‘inflated responsibility’. 

The first was defined as the perceived responsibility to prevent or avoid harm; the second blaming yourself for negative outcomes; and the third thinking you are responsible for solving a problem. 

To uncover whether inflated responsibility puts a person at risk of OCD or anxiety, the researchers sent an online questionnaire to university students in the US, most of which were female. 

Results revealed the participants who reported often taking the blame or mulling over problems were more likely to have OCD or GAD.

No link was found for perceived responsibility to prevent or avoid harm. 

Tests for OCD and GAD were combined using measures taken from other studies due to there being no one test for both disorders.

Dr Sugiura adds there are simple ways people can overcome inflated responsibility before it becomes a problem.

‘[A] very quick or easy way is to realise that responsibility is working behind your worry,’ he said.

‘I ask [patients] “why are you worried so much?” so they will answer “I can’t help but worry” but they will not spontaneously think “because I feel responsibility”.

‘Just realising it will make some space between responsibility thinking and your behaviour.’ 

The researchers stress the study was small, but believe the same results would likely occur with a larger number of participants.  


Obsessive compulsive disorder, usually known as OCD, is a common mental health condition which makes people obsess over thoughts and develop behaviour they struggle to control.

It can affect anyone at any age but normally develops during young adulthood.

It can cause people to have repetitive unwanted or unpleasant thoughts.

People may also develop compulsive behaviour – a physical action or something mental – which they do over and over to try to relieve the obsessive thoughts.

The condition can be controlled and treatment usually involves psychological therapy or medication.  

It is not known why OCD occurs but risk factors include a family history of the condition, certain differences in brain chemicals, or big life events like childbirth or bereavement. 

People who are naturally tidy, methodical or anxious are also more likely to develop it.

Source: NHS