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OCD & Addiction


OCD can be a difficult condition to live with; when you combine it with substance abuse, it can get so much worse. Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding OCD, and many people who have it fail to seek out professional help. If someone with OCD begins abusing drugs or alcohol, the treatment process also becomes more complex.

If you or someone you love is struggling with OCD and addiction, you probably have a lot of questions. For example, what is the relationship between OCD and addiction? Can one be caused by the other? What does OCD look like? Finally, is there a path forward for people with OCD and substance use disorder?

Before we answer these questions, it’s vitally important to remember that there is always hope. If you reach out to professionals who can treat OCD and addiction simultaneously, you can begin the road to recovery. To learn more about getting the help you need, please reach out to us at Prosperity Haven as soon as possible.

In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about the connection between OCD and drug or alcohol addiction:

What Is OCD?

OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a condition recognized as a series of patterns related to unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that often lead to repetitive and potentially harmful behaviors (compulsions). While many people may experience some variation of unwanted thoughts leading to repeated behaviors, it does not necessarily mean that they have OCD. For example, you may have a fear of cockroaches, which causes you to frequently buy and replace cockroach traps. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have OCD; it just means that you really don’t like cockroaches.

OCD becomes a diagnosable condition when the obsessions and compulsions begin to interfere with your everyday life or cause you severe distress. People with OCD often have a very difficult time overcoming the condition on their own. If you have OCD, you might try to simply ignore unwanted thoughts and fears, but this can just create even more anxiety surrounding them. As this anxiety builds, it can be harder and harder to avoid engaging in the repetitive behaviors that help you deal with your obsessions. Despite this ritualistic back and forth between obsessions and compulsions, the condition typically will not get better without some kind of professional intervention.

Types Of OCD

To a certain extent, obsessive-compulsive disorder is centered around a specific category or “theme” of fears and obsessions. This often results in OCD diagnoses that are separated into different types, which can help a therapist or other medical professional treat the underlying causes. Some of the most common types of OCD include:

  • Germs – A common obsession revolves around germs and/or cleanliness. A person with this type of OCD may be overly concerned with the threat of contamination of themselves or their environment, and may clean incessantly to combat this fear.
  • Harm – This type of OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts about causing harm to oneself or others. It’s important to note that most people with this form of OCD are not violent or aggressive. In fact, they may go out of their way to avoid situations that give rise to these thoughts.
  • Order – Some people with OCD become obsessed with creating and maintaining order or symmetry. This can manifest itself as repeatedly organizing a work or home space.
  • Hoarding – This type of OCD makes people afraid to lose material possessions, which often results in hoarding behavior. Hoarding can get to a point that it greatly reduces a person’s quality of life.
  • Checking – Many people with OCD feel the compulsion to check and recheck potentially dangerous things in their environment. For example, a person with this type of OCD may check to make sure that the stove is turned off or that the door is locked dozens of times per day.
  • Mental – This is a more general type of OCD that involves intrusive thoughts involving a wide range of fears. People with this type of OCD, sometimes known as “Pure OCD,” may have mental compulsions that are not readily apparent.
  • Physical – Also known as Somatic OCD, this type involves an obsession with normal bodily functions. For example, a person with this condition may become fearful that something like blinking or using the bathroom is indicative of a serious illness.

OCD Symptoms

Since OCD often involves two different processes (obsessions and compulsions), the symptoms are generally put into two different categories. Here are some of the most common symptoms related to obsessions:

  • Fear of touching things that may be dirty or undesirable
  • Uncertainty or doubts related to everyday occurrences
  • Intense anxiety when things are not set in the “right place”
  • Intrusive thoughts, often related to extreme sex or violence
  • Avoidance of triggering situations

These obsessions most often lead to compulsions, or repeated actions that can temporarily alleviate the fear or anxiety of one or more obsessions. Some of the most common symptoms related to compulsions include:

  • Washing one’s hands until the skin becomes raw
  • Checking doors or windows over and over again
  • Counting in very specific patterns
  • Silently or quietly repeating the same phrase
  • Arranging items in a very specific way

The Link Between OCD and Addiction

When OCD and addiction are both present, they become what is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Decades of research indicate that people with OCD are at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder than people who do not have the condition. One of the main reasons for the link between OCD and addiction is the desire to alleviate all of the fear and anxiety caused by OCD. These unpleasant feelings lead many people to seek out prescriptions or even self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. However, using drugs to feel numb and distract from intrusive thoughts is just a short-term solution that often leads to addiction.

There are other links between OCD and addiction, though they are far more complex. Some research indicates that OCD and substance abuse share certain underlying vulnerabilities. For instance, a person who is more susceptible to developing OCD due to genetic or environmental factors may also be more susceptible to developing a substance use disorder.

Can Addiction Lead To OCD?

Though it is more common for OCD to lead to addiction, it is also possible for addiction to give rise to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Severe substance abuse can bring about OCD by increasing anxiety and complicating a person’s ability to differentiate between what is real and what is imagined. Over time, addiction can also worsen the symptoms of OCD and lead to long-term changes in brain chemistry that can make it harder to treat the condition.

OCD & Substance Abuse Treatment

Are you or someone you love struggling with OCD and substance abuse? Do you need a safe place to rehabilitate and get professional dual-diagnosis treatment? If so, you should consider reaching out to the experts at Prosperity Haven. Not only do we have the knowledge and expertise to treat OCD and addiction simultaneously, but we can also provide a comfortable environment in which to detox and heal.

Located in Chardon, Ohio, Prosperity Haven offers advanced inpatient rehab and detox managed by trained professionals. Reach out today to learn more.


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