Treatment for OCD and Addiction

Many people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) find themselves struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. When OCD and addiction co-occur, the effects can be life-altering. Thankfully, there is hope here at Lifetime Recovery through our dual diagnosis program.

Young feamle having obsessive-compulsive disorder

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Everybody, at some point, has heard somebody off-handedly refer to their supposed OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). This is usually because of some trivial untidiness or because they’re “soooooo organized.” The trouble, however, is that there are those that actually suffer from a mental health disorder. There’s a major difference between a debilitating illness and someone feeling as though they should clean their room. There’s much more to it than most people realize. In fact, OCD can affect people so much that people that suffer from this mental health disorder often abuse substances to cope. Such people soon develop the co-occurring disorder of OCD and addiction. 

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is an anxiety disorder that involves intrusive thoughts, fear, and anxiety. Those who suffer from OCD can’t help but feel anxious about certain circumstances or fears in their lives; they obsess over it, coping with a sense of compulsive behavior. Some of these behaviors may involve things most people have seen characterized before such as the following:

  • Washing hands excessively
  • Organizing excessively
  • Touching random objects obsessively
  • Counting items excessively

There is a myriad of reasons why a person may behave this way. Most often it has to do with these obsessions causing anxiety, and the compulsive behavior puts them to rest mentally. Wouldn’t it be fixed though if they could just satisfy themselves with the compulsive behavior? That’s where the anxiety comes in. Once they relieve the anxiety, it has a way of showing back up, even after they’ve coped with their behaviors.

What Are the Symptoms of OCD?

Some of the symptoms of OCD include the following:

  • Fear of bacteria
  • Being scared of getting sick
  • Fear of viruses
  • Intrusive thoughts of losing a loved one
  • Constantly thinking about a loved one being hurt
  • Intrusive thoughts of a loved one getting sick
  • Obsessing over religious topics
  • Constantly touching things

There is no one-size-fits-all method to recognize a mental illness. The severity and visibility of one’s condition are most often contingent upon both a person’s environment and chemical makeup. Sometimes, symptoms of OCD and OCD and addiction can be more visible than not. For example, touching random objects or counting different things and possibly, lying about one’s whereabouts. However, sometimes it’s a bit harder to see. Intrusive thoughts can’t be seen. Obsessions exist in the mind, and while some may cope visibly, others may be dealing with a whole mess of things in their minds.

How Many People Suffer from OCD?

Somewhere over 2,000,000 men and women in the United States have obsessive-compulsive disorder. What’s worse is that, like other mental illnesses, if a family member has had it, it’s more likely to occur. Because OCD is a compulsion, even when a person is made aware of his or her mental illness, he or she will likely still engage in the behavior.

What is an Addiction?

When people are addicted to anything, it means that they are suffering from a biopsychosocial disorder. ‘Biopsychosocial’ is a term that refers to biological, psychological, and social factors that influence behaviors, health, and illness. When somebody suffers from addiction, they often obsess over the substances they abuse. How often they can get them, or when they can consume them next is all they’re concerned with. How it affects them or others around them is of no concern.

When it comes to addiction, those who deal with the disease can’t help but think about their next drink, toke, high, etc. This has a detrimental impact on a person’s quality of life because the addiction has a debilitating or paralyzing impact. In other words, people with addictions can’t get their fix, so they can’t do anything else until they get it. This doesn’t mean all hope is lost for these people though; there are a plethora of different treatment options available for those who suffer from addiction and even co-occurring mental illnesses, such as OCD and addiction.

How Does Addiction Affect You?

Addiction affects you in many ways. When a person uses a substance of abuse, he or she could either become addicted right away or develop dependence over time. This has more to do with which substance is being abused. Either way, substances send chemical signals to the brain, eventually distorting the pleasure center. 

Over time, the brain will become dependent on these substances for dopamine and serotonin. Sooner or later, things that brought people such joy and peace before will no longer do it for them, thus impacting their quality of life greatly. 

What Kind of Addictions Are There?

Some addictions may be more common than others and may include the following substances:

What Does OCD Have to Do With Addiction?

OCD doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with addiction, but the condition can certainly be worsened with addiction. That or those who deal with OCD and addiction often suffer from this co-occurring disorder because they’re trying to cope. What’s ironic about this in particular is that coping with drugs or alcohol has the potential to make one’s OCD much worse. This is because substance abuse tends to intensify obsessions.

There are a vast number of individuals who suffer from OCD and addiction at the same time and are seeking treatment. This number is somewhere close to 25% of those who seek treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Most often, when OCD shows itself at an early age, a person is more likely to struggle with substance abuse. 

The symptoms and behaviors are compulsions and abusing substances, but the root is anxiety and trying to cope with it. It’s important that those suffering from OCD don’t just try eradicating the symptoms, but that they also treat the cause. That way, it becomes much easier to cope in a healthy way.

For those who suffer from OCD, knowing that they also have a form of anxiety can be disheartening. However, the important thing to remember is that it’s not a new disorder that’s being dealt with. Anxiety is a part of it all. What’s imperative is that those who can relate to this, in particular, find better, healthier coping mechanisms besides substance abuse. 

Are Anxiety and Addiction Connected?

Those who suffer from an anxiety disorder have a hard time functioning physically and emotionally. This is because of the intense, chaotic, fear-inducing nature of the disease. As a result, an individual may turn to abuse substances to cope. This could be because of a person’s relaxing or stimulating effects (likely relaxing if it’s an anxiety disorder being dealt with).

Coping with anxiety is difficult, especially when doing so with substances of abuse. This kind of disease should not be taken lightly and is only made worse when not treated professionally. Repeatedly using substances of abuse will result in addiction over time. Addiction is a compulsive behavior developed over time; once it shows up, it only intensifies.  

Anxiety and addiction are often linked together. This is mostly because of those who suffer from an anxiety disorder. Either that or they develop anxiety while suffering from drug and alcohol withdrawal. Don’t let the wrapper fool you though; anxiety is not as easy as being stressed out for a final exam (which isn’t necessarily “easy” to deal with). Either way, this is often referred to as a co-occurring disorder. 

What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

A co-occurring disorder is when someone suffers from both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder; this is also referred to as a dual diagnosis. Mental health disorders often overlap, and for those who suffer from a co-occurring disorder, it is imperative to seek out treatment. Specialized care that caters to an individual’s true needs is of the utmost significance when suffering from substance abuse and OCD.

When suffering from a co-occurring disorder, individuals who won’t seek treatment tend to self-medicate. The symptoms of their mental health disorders are so unpleasant, that they’re willing to induce themselves to not feel anything. This happens when people consume more substances than they should (often referred to as abuse). These individuals may mean well or have a seemingly justifiable reason, but it still doesn’t make it beneficial for them. Such behavior increases the likelihood of developing a substance addiction.

Over 9 million adults in America struggle with mental illness. But just because someone is struggling with a mental illness doesn’t mean that substance abuse is lurking around the corner. The point of a co-occurring disorder is that two illnesses are happening at once, not that they’re mutually exclusive. It is worth mentioning, however, that addiction can’t trigger a non-existent mental illness. Some could even occur as a side-effect of withdrawal. Some of these mental illnesses may include the following:

Lastly, those who suffer from addictions are two times more likely to develop mental illnesses than those who don’t abuse substances. However, there are times that people may develop addictions because of their mental illnesses. For example, those suffering from anxiety or OCD may try calming their mind with different substances to shut themselves off.

Treatment Options for Mental Illnesses

Some treatment options for mental illness include the following:

No mental illness should ever be neglected. Treatment is an imperative alternative to dealing with substance use disorder. For those who need treatment, there are options available for their individual needs.

Get the Help You Need Today

For those struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, hope and stability may seem miles away. At Lifetime Recovery, our utmost concern is your well-being. Each individual that walks through our doors deserves the best treatment that fits their unique needs. There are programs available to help you. If you or a loved one would like to find out more, you can contact us here.