OCD is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurring or repetitive unwanted thoughts and actions.
A co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis is given to a person who has both a mental illness and struggles with addiction. Many people with mental disorders seek out drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms. Mental disorders may also trigger negative behaviors that can result in addictive behaviors. On the other hand, mental illness may be the result of long-term substance abuse. While there are a variety of disorders that are linked to substance abuse, one of the most common mental disorders that occur in tandem with addiction is an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
As a drug and alcohol treatment center in Chicago, we wanted to share some insight on the relationship between OCD and addiction.
What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
OCD is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurring or repetitive unwanted thoughts and actions. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder often engage in repetitive and compulsive behaviors that offer them temporary relief. For example, a person with OCD may not be able to walk out of a room without flipping the light switch a certain number of times. Some of these behaviors also include counting items and organizing; however, the relief the individual feels when they perform these tasks is temporary, and they usually return to an anxious state immediately after. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a consuming disorder that can prevent someone from completing daily tasks.
While OCD is often portrayed as quirky or funny behavior in movies and TV shows, it’s much more complicated than that. The symptoms of OCD are often minimized or diluted in order to seem more funny and presentable on screen.
Common symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder include:
- Fear of getting dirty or contaminated (leads to frequent hand washing)
- A constant need to keep things organized
- Unwanted or random thoughts relating to aggressive, sexual, or religious topics
- Suicidal thoughts
- Thoughts related to self-harm
- Repeatedly checking if doors are locked
- Experiencing high stress when things are not organized
- Avoiding others due to a fear of contamination
- Counting in patterns
- Making sure things on the shelves face the same direction
While this condition is often portrayed as humorous or as less severe in TV shows and movies, OCD is not funny and it’s not simple. OCD is a multi-faceted condition that can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide if it’s left untreated.
What Is the Correlation Between OCD & Addiction?
The relationship between OCD and addiction is centered on the use of drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with symptoms. OCD causes repetitive behavior that can disrupt the person’s life and make it difficult for them to complete any tasks. As an anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder doesn’t just refer to behavioral patterns, but a person’s thoughts as well. A person with OCD may struggle with aggressive and negative thoughts of hurting themselves or others. Over time, this person may go to drastic measures to find some relief, like using drugs or alcohol.
Unfortunately, substance abuse only worsens symptoms of preexisting mental disorders. For example, many people believe that marijuana has relaxing side effects, but it can actually cause anxiety and paranoia. Other drugs like cocaine, heroin, and prescription drugs can also cause psychosis. Addiction can also deteriorate a person’s health. Each drug causes different symptoms; for example, methamphetamine is known for causing dental decay, otherwise known as meth mouth. Once addicted, if the individual attempts to suddenly quit using without the help of drug or alcohol addiction treatment, they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. At this point, the individual would have to receive treatment for both their substance abuse disorder and mental illness.
OCD and addictive behavior are also similar. A person with an addiction may be solely focused on their substance of choice and getting their fix. They may begin to portray consistent and compulsive behaviors that prevent them from carrying out their daily responsibilities. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction also both attack the mind. Many drugs work by enhancing nerve activity to the point where psychosis occurs. A person with an anxiety disorder suffers from overworked nerves and nerve activity. That’s why these individuals often seek drugs that numb or slow their minds down.
At Banyan Treatment Centers Chicago, we offer IOP treatment for co-occurring disorders that teaches patients to learn healthy coping mechanisms for their mental disorders while healing from their addictions.