Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD – it’s a term that most of us are familiar with, often because it is used in a humorous way (I.e. – That’s my OCD kicking in, or, I’m OCD about that).
But OCD isn’t a joke, and certainly not when you are applying for life insurance.
OCD is a recognized medical condition, and has implications for a person’s future, as well as the risk that a life insurance company will associate with writing a policy.
The risk is generally perceived to be higher for someone with OCD than it is for someone without it, and can sometimes rise to the level of a declined life insurance application.
Sometimes, but certainly not always.
What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, OCD is:
“…an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts. But this only provides temporary relief. Not doing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety and distress.”
Symptoms can include a combination of the following:
- Obsessions or compulsions that are not due to medical illness or drug use
- Obsessions or compulsions that cause major distress or interfere with everyday life
- There are many types of obsessions and compulsions. These can be physically doing things (behaviors) or doing them in the head (mental acts). Examples include:
- Checking and rechecking actions (such as turning out the lights and locking the door)
- Excessive counting
- Excessive fear of germs
- Repeatedly washing the hands to ward off infection
- Repeating words silently
- Praying silently over and over
The exact cause of OCD is not well understood, but is believed that head injury, infections, or abnormal function in certain areas of the brain could be factors, as well as genetics. Typically, the symptoms will show up in the patient by age 30. In addition, the patient is usually aware that he or she has these symptoms, but is unable to control them.
Treatment includes a mix of medication (usually antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic drugs) and behavioral therapy, as well as talk therapy. This involves repeatedly exposing the patient to situations that trigger obsessive thoughts and behaviors, and effort to gradually increase the patient’s ability to tolerate the distress and to avoid compulsive behavior.
Though complete elimination of the syndrome is rare, treatment has been shown to be effective over the long term. Fortunately, there is little evidence to indicate that OCD leads to other mental health issues.
How Does OCD Affect an Application For Life Insurance?
Just as is the case with virtually any other type of pre-existing condition, your ability to get life insurance with OCD will depend upon a number of factors including:
- How much time has passed since the initial diagnosis
- The extent of your condition – mild, moderate, or severe
- Medications (if any) that you are taking, and how compliant you are in doing so
- How regularly you are getting medical help
- Whether or not you have seen a psychiatrist
- Whether or not you have ever had electroshock therapy
- Thoughts of suicide, or any attempts at suicide
- If you have ever required hospitalization as a result of OCD
The life insurance company will follow all the normal procedures in processing your application. This will include conducting a physical, which is generally conducted in your home or place of work, and will monitor the basics, such as height, weight and blood pressure, as well as taking blood and urine samples. None of this is likely to reveal that you have OCD, but the insurance company will also request physicians statements, that will reveal your previous medical history.
As is the case with any type of medical history, it’s always best that you disclose OCD on your application. There are simply too many ways that the insurance company can verify the true state of your medical condition. As an example, the company can do a prescription database search to see what type of medications you have been prescribed in the past. If that reveals medication taken for OCD, your application is likely be rejected because of your lack of disclosure of your condition.
In many cases, you may receive a standard risk assessment despite having OCD. This won’t get you the best rates on life insurance, but they will allow you to purchase life insurance at a reasonable premium.
In a worst-case scenario, you could be given a guaranteed issue policy. That’s the kind of policy that will be based on your age, and approval will be guaranteed. There is no medical exam or health questions required for this kind of policy either. There are however a couple of limitations. Because medical condition is not a factor, the premium rate per thousand dollars of coverage will be higher than it is for ordinary life insurance. You will also be limited in the amount of the death benefit, generally to not more than $30,000. Guaranteed issue policies also typically contain a waiting period on payment of the death benefit. Benefits will not be paid out at any time during the first two years that the policy is in force.
It’s not a perfect life insurance solution, but it’s certainly better than no life insurance coverage at all.
The Affect of OCD on Your Life Insurance Premiums
Though it is unlikely that you will get preferred rates if you have OCD, as noted above, you may qualify for standard rates if your condition is mild or moderate.
That may be the case if you’re only taking a single medication and have no history of hospitalization or suicide attempts related to OCD.
Exactly what your premium rates will be will depend on a number of factors, as well as the company that you are making application with. If you have OCD, it’s much better if you do not attempt to try and get a life insurance policy on your own.
What It Takes to Get an Affordable Policy With OCD
If you have OCD, there are two factors that are important in regard to your life insurance application: approval and premium rate. For this reason, you will need to have the assistance of a life insurance professional, particularly one who has plenty of experience in obtaining life insurance for people who have pre-existing conditions.
In the insurance world, not all companies view all health conditions in the same light. In the case of OCD, some may consider it to be an automatic decline. Others will approve the policy with a significant rate adjustment, while still others will accept policies with only minor increases in basic premium rates. The key is to know which are the best life insurance companies for people with OCD, and have the most affordable premiums. A competent life insurance professional will know exactly this. That will not only save you premium dollars, but will also save you the time that you will waste applying to companies who will never approve your policy, or will do so at ridiculously high rates.
If you have OCD, you also need to do your part to make sure that you’re the best candidate possible for life insurance. This will include some or all of the following:
- Do your best to lead a stable life – that includes your personal life, your family life, and your professional life
- Make sure that you are healthy in every other way, and that especially includes your overall physical health; you need to avoid representing multiple risks to an insurance company
- Be sure to stay current with any therapy related to your OCD, that includes regular doctor visits, taking required medication, or any other prescribed therapies
- Be sure to disclose your OCD and any other medical conditions that you have to your agent – he can only help you if he knows what those conditions are
Do your best to take care of what you can, and let your agent worry about which companies to apply to. Your proactive behavior, in combination with your agent’s ability to navigate the life insurance maze, should get you the coverage that you need at a rate that you can afford.