Autism and OCD are two neurological conditions which often intertwine, and their co-occurrence presents unique challenges and opportunities for growth. It’s important to understand the similarities and differences between autism and OCD, shedding light on the incredible diversity of the human mind. We can embrace the concept of neurodiversity while also offering strategies and resources to help support those living with both conditions.

Autism and OCD share certain characteristics, yet they manifest differently in each individual. Autism impacts social interaction, communication, and the presence of repetitive behaviors or restricted interests. OCD, on the other hand, is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive, distressing thoughts (obsessions) and the urge to perform repetitive behaviors (compulsions) to alleviate anxiety. It’s important to have accurate diagnoses to determine the best supports and strategies to enhance well-being.


Rituals and Routines:

Both autism and OCD individuals often find comfort in rituals and routines. While someone with autism may engage in repetitive behaviors due to sensory sensitivities or the need for predictability, individuals with OCD perform rituals as a response to obsessions, striving for relief from anxiety.

Sensory Sensitivities:

Hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to sensory stimuli is common in both autism and OCD. Autistic individuals may experience heightened sensitivities to sounds, lights, textures, or smells, while individuals with OCD might develop obsessions centered around sensory triggers, leading to compulsive behaviors.

Executive Functioning Challenges:

Difficulties with executive functioning, such as organization, planning, and decision-making, can be observed in both autism and OCD. These challenges may present obstacles in daily life, work, and relationships.


Core Features:

Autism primarily affects social communication and interaction, whereas OCD revolves around obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Autistic individuals may struggle with social cues, reciprocal conversation, and non-verbal communication, while individuals with OCD might experience persistent intrusive thoughts, worries, or fears, resulting in ritualistic behaviors.

Cognitive Flexibility:

Autistic individuals may exhibit rigid thinking patterns, difficulty adapting to change, or a preference for sameness. In OCD, cognitive flexibility may be compromised due to the intense need for control, resulting in rigid thought patterns and resistance to change.

Strategies and Resources:

Self-Awareness and Acceptance:

Developing self-awareness about one’s unique strengths, challenges, and neurodivergent identity is crucial. Embrace the concept of neurodiversity, acknowledging that being autistic and having OCD are integral parts of who you are, contributing to your unique perspective and talents.

Therapy and Support:

Seek therapy from professionals who specialize in both autism and OCD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), particularly exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, can be effective in managing OCD symptoms. Therapists who understand autism can provide this through a neurodiversity-affirming lense and can help you develop coping strategies, address anxiety, and navigate the intersection between autism and OCD.

Community Engagement:

Connect with neurodiverse communities, support groups, and online platforms (like Autistic Support Network!) Engaging with like-minded individuals who understand your experiences can provide validation, support, and a sense of belonging.

Accommodations and Adjustments:

Explore accommodations that can ease everyday challenges. These may include creating structured routines, using visual supports, implementing sensory-friendly environments, and employing adaptive technologies.

Advocacy and Education:

Educate yourself and others about autism, OCD, and the importance of embracing neurodiversity. Advocate for inclusive policies, accommodations in the workplace, and supportive environments that celebrate diverse minds.

In conclusion, Autism and OCD commonly occur together but include distinct features and have different methods of support.  By embracing neurodiversity, acknowledging the similarities and differences between autism and OCD, and utilizing the strategies and resources available, we can foster acceptance, empowerment, and growth. Remember, you are not defined by your conditions, but rather by the remarkable resilience and unique strengths you possess as a neurodiverse individual.

Dr. Jessica Myszak and Dr. Jaime Long have significant experience performing psychological evaluations with children and adults. They offer both in-person and telehealth evaluations for children, teens, and adults looking for answers. In addition to seeing clients on the Chicago North Shore, they are able to work with families who reside in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Washington DC, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming! If you are interested in learning more about potentially working with them, you can visit their website here to get the process started.