Episode 35: OCD and the Holidays

Episode 35

OCD and the Holidays

In this weeks episode, Kelley and Lauren discuss how OCD, phobias and anxiety can impact the holidays. They talk about all the myriad ways that OCD and other forms of anxiety can attack all holidays, with a special emphasis on Thanksgiving, given that it’s right around the corner. 

Lauren quips that this is the time of year where OCD gets dressed up perhaps like a Turkey or with a Santa Hat. Kelley considers OCD carrying a glass of champagne.

There are ways that OCD can latch onto Holidays more generally and there are also holiday-specific triggers.

  • What if I undercook the turkey and kill everyone/myself? 
  • What if I have obsessions on this special day?

Aggressive sidebar: Fear of undercooking can also come up for people with emetophobia (fear of vomiting)

Thanksgiving-specific Obsessions include:

  • Why don’t I feel grateful? Maybe I’m a bad person.
  • Am I enjoying this Thanksgiving fully? Is this the best choice for where I wanted to have my Thanksgiving? Am I with the right people? Am I optimizing my Thanksgiving experience?
  • Why don’t I feel grateful for my partner? Maybe I’m in the wrong relationship.

Holidays are also hard for people more generally.

Oftentimes people believe they should be having a certain experience and become frustrated if there experience isn’t as expected. Others struggle when don’t live near family/talk to family/ or have recently lost a loved one.

Besides, there’s the pressure to be Martha Stewart. Or to make the day extra special for kids.

“The Martha Stewart Pressure is real!”

Kelley Franke, LMFT

With specific subtypes, the holidays can present specific challenges.

For example: those with Pedophilia OCD might have more exposure to children

Decision-making can be tough for people with OCD, generally. That can show up during holidays as:

  • What do I want to make?
  • What do I want to wear?
  • Who do I want to spend time with?

Specific subtypes of OCD and Anxiety might flare up around the holidays. For example:

  • False memory or real event OCD might be associated with holidays or a certain time of year.
  • Visiting a childhood home or certain place might be triggering, especially for people with emotional contamination. 
  • New Years Eve can be triggering for those with Existential OCD.
  • All the social events this time of year can be triggering to those with social anxiety.
  • Going to see family might be a trigger for those with agoraphobia.
  • Being around family can be triggering.

Side note: body image/Disordered Eating can get triggered this time of year.


Like what you’ve heard? We’d love to hear your feedback. Head over to your podcast app of choice where you can comment and like the podcast in order to help build our audience and spread awareness about OCD. While you’re there, subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Sign Up for Updates from Us

Subscribe below to receive info on our latest news and episodes

Disclaimer: This information is meant to be general information not unique to any individual. Before following any guidance or advice found on this site or in the Purely OCD Podcast a visitor or listener should always consult with their own licensed healthcare practitioner. The Purely OCD Podcast and Website are not therapy or intended as a replacement for therapy. They are for educational purposes only.

Leave a Reply