OCD and Addictive Behavior: What’s the Link?

OCD and Addictive Behavior: What’s the Link?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) challenges those who deal with the condition. When you add in suffering from a substance use disorder, a person’s life becomes difficult to navigate. Understanding OCD and addictive behavior can help those whose lives are impacted by both to look for the appropriate treatment.

Understanding OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness both adults and children can develop. OCD causes obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that a person has difficulty ignoring. The thoughts can appear as images, are intrusive, and happen with great frequency. The urges cause a person to repeat patterns despite knowing the behavior isn’t necessary. The behaviors are often performed with the belief or hope that doing so will alleviate the thoughts and reduce related stress.

For example, a person might become fixated that they left their oven on. Despite repeatedly checking it and finding that it is turned off, they feel a compulsion to check multiple times. For some, repetition of behavior must happen a certain number of times in order to assist in alleviating the stressful thoughts they feel. They might need to turn a doorknob or flip a light switch a specific amount of times in order to feel calm. Even when they know logically that these tasks are not necessary, the OCD compels them to stay rooted in this cycle.

Fears and Symptoms of OCD

The International OCD Foundation states that some of the most common obsessions and intrusive thoughts involve:

  • Fear of contamination
  • Fear of losing control and engaging in damaging words or actions
  • A need for extreme organization
  • Fear of throwing away things that ultimately aren’t important
  • Intrusive sexual thoughts
  • Obsession with religion
  • Feeling something terrible will happen if they don’t complete their compulsive tasks

People with OCD have certain physical symptoms in common. They will spend at least one hour a day consumed by the behaviors. Despite understanding their thoughts and behaviors are not realistic, they are unable to control them. Often dealing with OCD causes an amount of anxiety that serves to contribute to the stress the individual already feels, setting them up to seek solace from their behaviors even more so. OCD can consume a person’s world so much that their work and school lives suffer. It may negatively impact personal relationships and cause someone to avoid hobbies and pastimes. 

How OCD and Addictive Behavior Interact

About half of those who have a substance use disorder also deal with at least one mental illness, such as OCD. The constant influx of obsessive thoughts and engaging in compulsive behaviors can cause a great deal of stress. OCD already proves to be an anxiety-provoking condition, meaning a person’s stress levels increase even more. Often the stress of dealing with OCD becomes the impetus for someone to begin using drugs or alcohol in an attempt to alleviate their symptoms. Unfortunately, this attempt at self-medicating can quickly turn into a full-blown addiction. 

Can OCD and Addiction Be Treated Together?

Many people make the assumption that OCD and addictive behavior should be treated at separate times. Trained professionals and treatment programs understand how to address both addictions and OCD, as well as other mental health diagnoses, simultaneously. This not only saves a person time spent in treatment, but allows them to learn how one condition affects the other, both while untreated and after treatment begins. 

As a person racks up time living sober, they are better equipped to understand the directions given to them to help manage their OCD. Sobriety allows a person to think more clearly and not give in to impulses related to their addiction. At the same time, as the person gains some control over their OCD and how they handle it, the temptation to use drugs or alcohol for stress and anxiety relief happens less often. 

Getting started on treatment for OCD and addictive behavior involves getting an official diagnosis. A trained clinician can identify both substance use disorders and mental illnesses like OCD. A treatment plan can then be formulated that provides a timeline and what expectations should be in terms of the outcome. Talk therapy, both individual and in groups, offers individuals a way to reframe their addiction and challenges living with OCD. 

Often, medication for OCD comes into play. Other meds can also be implemented to help a person who experiences difficult withdrawal symptoms when initially detoxing from drugs or alcohol. It is highly recommended that medical professionals supervise any medications to monitor them for effectiveness, side effects, and any need for changes in dosages or medication types. Holistic types of therapy often help people with co-occurring disorders. These therapy types include yoga, meditation, acupuncture, equine therapy, breathwork, and art and music therapy.

Treatment for Addiction in Arizona

Do you find yourself in the grips of addiction and OCD and want to find out how to take charge of your health? Continuum Recovery Center uses multiple types of treatment, including a holistic approach, that will show you how to embrace a sober life and manage your mental health. 

If you or someone you love wants professional help that begins today, contact Continuum Recovery Center and let us show you the way.