OCD and Addiction

OCD and Addiction

Life can be very trying for someone who is trying to deal with an emotional or mental disorder like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It’s hard to fathom how difficult life must be for someone with OCD and an addiction to drugs and alcohol in the mix.

This is an important issue that doesn’t get the kind of coverage it should. In the addiction treatment community, someone with both OCD and a drug or alcohol addiction is said to have coexisting conditions. The existence of coexisting conditions makes the treatment process for either issue a very complicated process. For that reason, it would seem that a meaningful discussion on this topic would be useful. You should read the information below very carefully.

What is OCD?

According to the WebMD.com website, “Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts or sensations (obsessions) or the urge to do something over and over again (compulsions). Some people can have both obsessions and compulsions.”

It’s very important to point out that this has nothing to do with what most people might consider bad habits. This discussion is about uncontrollable compulsions that tend to disrupt the lives of people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. To better understand the differences between a habit and an OCD, here are a few OCD symptoms worthy of consideration:

  • The behavior takes up to an hour of the person’s time each day
  • The individual cannot control their behavior
  • It creates frustration, anger, and misery in the person’s life
  • The compulsion interferes with certain aspects of the individual’s life (work, relationships, etc.)

In the early stages of OCD, the afflicted individual will show signs of extreme frustration and anger. Over time, the OCD becomes second nature to the afflicted individual. Unfortunately, that’s the same timeframe when the OCD behaviors become an issue for other people, including family and friends.

Why People Try to Self-medicate with Drugs or Alcohol

One of the primary reasons people decide to start abusing drugs or alcohol is as a coping mechanism for personal problems and psychological issues. That would certainly apply to people who are dealing with both OCD and substance abuse.

Imagine for a moment that you have OCD. Your compulsion is to constantly look at your watch while worrying about the time. Your compulsion causes you great difficulty when it’s time for you to concentrate on other things. This frustrates you and makes you sad.

One day, you discover a sedative relaxes you and puts your compulsion on hold. You enjoy the temporary relief. Unfortunately, the effects of the drug will wear off and your compulsion comes back in full force. Your choices are to self-medicate again or let it go. If you choose the former, it’s only a matter of time before your body and mind become dependent on the sedative. Once you go too far into drug dependence, you would begin to subject yourself to withdrawal symptoms and harmful behaviors. It’s at that point that you would have an addiction.

That is what you would expose yourself to if you decided sedatives were the right way to mask the things you deal with because of the OCD.

This is the scenario that plays out for many of the people who end up with both OCD and addiction. Innocently enough, they are just trying to escape the symptoms brought on by their OCD. Those moments of relief can mean a lot to someone with a significant OCD issue.

The Dangers of OCD and Substance Abuse/dependence

If someone decides to use drugs or alcohol as a way to deal with their OCD, they expose themselves to significant risks. Of course, there is always the risk of them developing an addiction. Once someone has been struck with the disease of addiction, it becomes a permanent part of who they will be until the end of their time. That’s a very dangerous scenario.

The other danger is not so obvious. While hiding their OCD under the cloak of addiction, the individual is probably not doing anything about getting treatment for the OCD. This is a disorder that has the potential to get worse and cause more problems if the individual doesn’t get proper treatment. It demands treatment if the individual has any designs on living a normal life.

Treatment for OCD

Under this category, there are two things to address. As far as treatment for OCD on its own, there are two common treatment options. The first one is prescribed medication. The medication most doctors prescribed come from the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors group (SSRIs). This includes antidepressants and antipsychotics.

There are also certain forms of therapy psychologists use to treat OCD. One technique that has proven to be effective when used in CBT is called exposure and response prevention (ERP). This process involves repetitively exposing the patient to the triggers that create their compulsive behavior. Through overexposure, the hope is the patient will get desensitized to the stimuli, and the compulsive behavior will diminish.

The treatment process takes on a whole new dimension when an addiction gets intermingled with the OCD. In such cases, the individual should be seeking treatment in a rehab facility because of the specialized nature of addiction treatment. In fact, the addiction treatment community has a term for treating coexisting conditions. They call it “dual-diagnosis therapy.”

The premise behind dual diagnosis therapy is the client needs treatment for both issues at the same time. Why? Failure to treat both issues simultaneously makes it possible for the untreated issue to interfere with the treatment and recovery processes. It’s worth noting that dual diagnosis treatment sometimes requires the client to work with multiple therapists.

If you believe you have both Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, you need to address those issues now. That’s something we are prepared to help you with as soon as you contact us. If you would be willing to reach out your hand for help, you will get the opportunity to reclaim the life you deserve.