Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Addiction - CWC Recovery

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, is a chronic mental health condition. To explain further, OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring and obsessive thoughts that trigger compulsive actions. The obsessive thoughts and behaviors associated with this condition can trigger extremely distressing feelings and behaviors. For example, compulsive behaviors such as constant checking or cleaning are the individual’s attempt to soothe their obsessive thoughts. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction are two co-occurring disorders that often exist hand in hand.

Unfortunately, some people find these feelings so unbearable that they begin to self-medicate their symptoms through alcohol or drug abuse. In other words, it is extremely common for OCD and addiction to co-occur. Individuals suffering from both obsessive-compulsive disorder and drug or alcohol addiction may endure serious mental and physical damage if their conditions are left untreated. As a result, people must receive the correct treatment for both conditions. Continue reading to learn more about OCD and addiction, how they co-occur, and how to recover.

The Signs and Symptoms of OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is known to cause individuals to suffer from obsessions and compulsions. Examples of common obsessions associated with OCD include:

  • Fear or anxiety surrounding germs.
  • Perverse or “forbidden” sexual thoughts that the individual is uncomfortable with.
  • Fear of losing control or behaving in an inappropriate, impulsive, or violent nature.
  • Being afraid of responsibility out of fear of causing harm to others.
  • Irrational beliefs that perfection is attainable and being obsessed with perfection.
  • Religious or spiritual obsessions, such as fearing God.

While the previously mentioned obsessions may be the most common among individuals with OCD, some people may suffer from less common fixations. For example, additional obsessions may include the fear of developing serious medical conditions or becoming irrationally superstitious. Any thought that becomes excessive, leading to compulsive behaviors, qualifies as an OCD obsession.

Common compulsive behaviors associated with OCD include:

  • Excessive washing or cleaning, sometimes leading to bodily harm due to aggressive scrubbing or hand washing.
  • Organizing things obsessively until the arrangement feels “perfect”.
  • Checking things, such as whether the oven is off, over and over again.
  • Compulsive counting of actions, objects, etc.
  • The feeling of needing to use “good” words.
  • Any repetitive actions, movements, or routines.

Similar to OCD obsessions, individuals may suffer from additional compulsions not previously listed. OCD looks different for everyone, meaning each person may suffer from varying obsessions and compulsions. To differentiate whether an action is normal, or indicative of an OCD compulsion, you must decipher whether the action is out of the individual’s control.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Addiction: How They Relate

Obsessive-compulsive disorder commonly runs in families and is believed to cause brain circuits to work improperly, causing the uncomfortable symptoms associated with OCD. Additionally, it is extremely common for obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcohol or drug addiction to co-occur. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than one-quarter of individuals suffering from OCD also meet the criteria for addiction. This happens because individuals suffering from OCD begin to use drugs or alcohol as a means to cope with their extreme feelings of anxiety or to silence their intrusive thoughts.

When individuals with OCD abuse drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms, this is referred to as “self-medicating”. While this form of self-medication may seem to work initially, using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism can lead to dangerous health effects, such as addiction and dependence. Also, abusing substances while dealing with the effects of OCD can lead to both disorders worsening each other over time.

OCD, Addiction, and Social Isolation

Many people suffering from OCD are aware of their obsessions and compulsions being irrational. While they are aware, oftentimes, they still can not control their intrusive thoughts or compulsive actions. Unfortunately, much like addicts or alcoholics, this causes individuals with OCD to feel guilty or ashamed. As a result, it is common for people with OCD to socially isolate themselves.

Social isolation caused by obsessive-compulsive disorder can quickly lead to an addiction to alcohol or drugs. This is because when individuals socially isolate themselves to conceal their symptoms of OCD, they often become lonely. This combination of guilt, shame, and loneliness is a perfect storm, known to cause an addiction to substances.

Treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Drug or Alcohol Addiction

OCD and addiction are two separate mental health conditions. However, these co-occurring disorders must be treated simultaneously for treatment to become effective. Patients must receive a form of psychotherapy during addiction treatment meant to help them understand the root causes of both their conditions.

One of the most effective treatments for OCD and substance abuse is known as cognitive-behavioral therapy. This form of psychotherapy can provide patients with the help they need in order to:

  • Learn to cope with stress or triggers stemming from OCD and addiction
  • Recognize destructive and untrue thoughts that potentially led to compulsions
  • Reverse problematic thoughts and habits while replacing them with safe and healthy coping mechanisms
  • Learn better life skills while setting coals and plans for a brighter future

In addition to therapy, sometimes individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders require medications to help them deal with unwanted symptoms. Mostly utilized during early recovery, there is an array of pharmacological options for the treatment of OCD and addiction. If you or a loved one suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction, seeking help at a medical dual-diagnosis program could provide you with safe, appropriate, and effective treatments for both conditions.

Dual Diagnosis Substance Abuse Treatment in West Palm Beach

Overcoming drug or alcohol addiction is never an easy process, especially when OCD is thrown into the mix. However, with the help of an individualized treatment plan and a full continuum of care, recovery is completely possible – and we’re here to help.

Contact CWC Recovery for more information on our dual-diagnosis treatment options in West Palm Beach.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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