OCD and Addiction

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OCD and Addiction

Obsessive thoughts and worries happen to everyone at some point or another. For example, most people will experience the sudden feeling that we’ve left the stove on or that the front door is unlocked.

However, if you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these thoughts can be relentless and mentally consuming, preventing you from completing your daily responsibilities. For instance, people with OCD are forced to go home several times before making it to their destination to make sure they have locked the door or turned off the television, etc. Sometimes, they’ll be compelled to thoroughly wash their hands over and over again to get rid of germs. 

These rituals and thoughts are time-consuming, intrusive, and debilitating. As a result, some people experience OCD to such an extent that they struggle to hold down a job, drop out of school, and isolate themselves from the rest of society.

It is important to remember that these compulsive behaviors are not simply somebody’s personality – they are symptoms of severe mental health issues.

Research suggests that OCD manifests in over 2% of the population every year and currently affects 3 million people in the United States alone. That being said, there’s a chance these statistics underestimate how common the disorder is within the community.

Typically, OCD symptoms will occur during childhood, usually between 8 and 12 years old. However, sometimes they’ll appear in the late teens or young adulthood.

Despite instances of OCD being significantly less than many other mental health disorders, the condition is a disability and can severely impact a person’s social life and general functioning.

Additionally, OCD is associated with rising rates of alcohol and drug abuse, which can exacerbate the disorder. Many individuals dealing with OCD who become addicted to substances will experience more severe compulsive symptoms. They may also appear self-destructive, act irrationally, and may become hospitalized if symptoms continue to escalate.

If OCD is diagnosed in a person, therapeutic support is necessary to prevent the condition from worsening.

What is the Relationship Between OCD and Substance Abuse?

For many individuals, drug and alcohol abuse is how they ease the stress and anxiety of OCD. However, over time, substance addiction will eventually make the condition much worse.

According to a recent study of 323 US adults, 27% fit the criteria for some type of substance abuse disorder. Additionally, 12% of the sample was classified as alcohol dependent, whereas 11% were dependent on alcohol and drugs. Also, 3% were dependent solely on drugs.

Many of these participants noted that their abuse began after they developed OCD symptoms. Incidentally, individuals who suffered with compulsive behaviors and obsessive thinking during childhood were likely to develop problems with drugs and alcohol as they got older. In addition, the study found that OCD isolated these people from their friends and peers, causing social withdrawal and severe mental distress, resulting in addiction.

It is worth noting that social isolation is one of the most common issues that face individuals with OCD. A lot of people eventually become housebound due to their consuming anxieties. Not only does this increase the chance of developing depression, but it also makes them vulnerable to substance abuse. As such, the individual is caught in a cycle of dependency, increasing the sense of isolation and depression, leading to worse anxiety and compulsive behaviors. Both OCD and addiction is likely to become more severe without treatment, leading to profoundly self-destructive behavior and oftentimes hospitalization.

    Knowing When to Help Someone with OCD and Drug Addiction?

    People with OCD will often hide their condition from their friends and family, usually out of shame and guilt. As a result, the affliction can be left untreated for a long time. That being said, intervening and helping a loved one with OCD access the right treatment can save them an enormous amount of physical and mental torment. If you suspect somebody may be suffering with OCD and substance abuse, you may notice the following symptoms:

    • Excessive hand-washing, brushing teeth, and other forms of over-grooming 
    • Superstitious counting
    • Excessively cleaning the home or office
    • Sorting items in a specific order
    • Obsessively check the body, hair, and skin for flaws
    • Arranging items repeatedly
    • Hoarding items that have no apparent value
    • Counting actions (such as steps)

    In addition, you may also notice the following signs of drug abuse:

    • Mood swings
    • Paranoia
    • Low self-esteem and self-worth
    • Aggression
    • Tiredness
    • Agitation
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Poor judgment
    • Memory problems

    Knowing How to Seek Help for OCD and Substance Abuse

    If you wish to discuss OCD and addiction with your loved one, you should consider the following points to remain clear-headed and sympathetic to their issue.

    • OCD is a condition that causes a lot of emotional pain and anxiety. The individual will usually feel shame about the way they act. Try not to undermine the severity of the disorder.
    • Addiction is a disease, not a weakness. Try to remain as nonjudgmental as possible when talking about substance abuse with your loved one.
    • Both OCD and addiction lead to depression and withdrawal from society. The conversation may be difficult, but you could help your loved one rebuild their life with the proper therapy.

    Seek Out Treatment for OCD and Addiction

    The single best way to treat OCD and addiction is to engage in a specific program for people with dual diagnoses. Before broaching the issue with your loved one, seek out an appropriate research addiction treatment facility in your city.

    Here at the Recovery Institute of Ohio, we offer dual diagnosis treatment for patients with OCD and drug addiction. With our help, clients gain access to comprehensive therapies, expert physicians, nurses, and other medical personnel. We also offer counseling, 12 step programs, and treatment plans that are geared to provide a path towards independence and sobriety.

    If you or someone you care for is battling addiction or a dual diagnosis, please contact our Ohio rehab today today. Our team of experienced treatment specialists is available to help you find the right program for you.

    OCD and Addiction: FAQs

    What is OCD?

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a condition where you suffer from repetitive thoughts and behaviors that you cannot control.

    Are OCD and Addiction Disorders Related?

    Not always. OCD is a mental health condition that often first appears in childhood. Addiction is also a mental health issue, usually caused by external stressors. While OCD symptoms can lead people to abuse drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism, the two are not always associated with one another.

    What is the Difference Between Addiction and OCD?

    The difference between OCD and addiction is all to do with pleasure and relief. While both compulsion and addiction are uncontrollable urges to do something, individuals with OCD feel relief when they give in to their compulsive behavior. Conversely, people with addiction get a sense of pleasure from their behavior.

    Patient at our drug rehab in Ohio smoking a cigerette outside at night

    Depending on the individual’s needs and level of severity, relapse recovery can vary anywhere from thirty, sixty, or ninety-day treatment programs in supervised facilities to a lifetime of maintaining sobriety. It is crucial to understand that addiction recovery has no limitations, and hence you should not confine yourself to a fixed time limit. Failing to understand this may push you to relapse once the time is up.

    Get the Help You Need!

    If you have already undergone drug addiction recovery or relapse recovery treatment but are struggling with the reality or potential of a relapse, there’s help available. We suggest you get yourself enrolled in a treatment program that better answers your needs and helps you attain sustained sobriety. At Recovery Institute of Ohio, we offer several addiction program options suiting both your needs and budget. Do not allow a relapse or multiple relapses to keep you in a cycle of substance abuse.

    Are You Ready to Start a Better Way of Life?

    Reviewed by Jessica Kitchen

    Jessica Kitchin is the Clinical Program Manager/Primary Therapist at Recovery Institute of Ohio. She received her Master’s Degree in Addiction Counseling from Grand Canyon University. Jessica believes that the best part of her job is knowing that she is apart of creating a safe, healthy, nonjudgmental environment where people can come and better their lives. "There is nothing more satisfying than helping others learn to live again and piece their lives back together as they become strong, productive members of society. Together, we can bring families back together and promote healing and wellbeing.

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