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Link Between OCD and Alcohol Abuse

Link Between OCD and Alcohol Abuse

What is OCD? Obsessive-compulsive disorder means a person is experiencing repetitive, intrusive thoughts and displaying uncontrollable behavior. Individuals diagnosed with OCD may struggle with mild symptoms, while others are continually bothered by unpleasant thoughts and behavior, disturbing their everyday activities. The mental health disorder is affected by numerous factors, including depression, biological factors, stress, or other emotional or mental impacts on the brain. OCD and alcohol are related since drinking can impact OCD symptoms.  

OCD and Drinking 

Alcohol is a socially accepted drug, and many people use this substance to take the edge off and reduce stress from everyday responsibilities. Yet alcohol abuse can lead to adverse side effects like mental confusion, hot flashes, aggression, and fevers. Alcoholism is common in America and leads to long-term health complications like high blood pressure and organ failure. Still, people will misuse the substance to feel overly relaxed or distract themselves from work-related or social problems.  

Regarding OCD, researchers indicate that genetics, biology, and cognitive function play a significant role in the development of the disorder. Functioning imaging studies reveal the increased metabolic activity in a specific region in the brain regarding people with OCD, provoking compulsions and obsessions.1 

Environmental factors include chronic levels of stress, trauma, depression or fluctuating emotions, and addiction. OCD and alcohol abuse is common since people tend to use the substance as a coping mechanism due to the intense emotional instability they endured or are currently experiencing. Drinking helps people to reduce senseless thoughts that overwhelm the brain. Intoxication makes focusing on repetitive thoughts or behaviors difficult, but it may intensify anxiety or other symptoms.  

How Does Alcohol Affect OCD? 

Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder will use alcohol, a depressant drug that affects the central nervous system, to self-medicate, especially if they underwent childhood trauma. Typically, those who have a past of emotional or physical abuse at a young age have a higher chance of becoming alcoholics. Since alcohol heightens serotonin production, causing happy and confident awareness, people will form a physical dependency on the substance.  

However, high levels of serotonin cause a chemical imbalance in the body. Alcohol does make OCD worse because symptoms are manipulated. Chronic drinking interrupts the communication pathways in the brain, which signal messages throughout the body. For these reasons, behavior, thoughts, and emotions are negatively influenced.  

When a person excessively drinks to reduce compulsive thoughts and behaviors, eventually, the symptoms are brought up to the surface at full force. There are various forms of OCD, such as relationships, religion, and checking OCD. Overall, common symptoms one may undergo can include:  

  • Constant doubting 
  • Washing and cleaning 
  • Fear of contamination 
  • Demanding reassurance 
  • Disturbing sexual images 
  • Counting in certain patterns 
  • Silently repeating a prayer, word, or phrase 
  • Thoughts about shouting obscene statements in public 
  • Aggressive thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or others 
  • Unwanted thoughts, including aggressive, sexual, or religious subjects  

Addiction and OCD go hand in hand, but there are therapeutic methods that help reduce symptoms, such as art therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. Although alcohol may seem to temporarily reduce symptoms, drinking is not a remedy for the disorder. Alcohol addiction treatment is highly recommended for those who will use the substance as a coping mechanism. 

Recovery at Our Chicago Addiction Treatment Center 

If you or a loved one is battling OCD and alcohol abuse, then Banyan Treatment Centers Chicago is here to help you recover. Our mental health program includes solution-focused brief therapy, motivational interviewing, and more. Our experienced medical team will work with you to design a treatment plan that meets your recovery goals. We provide a clean and secure environment for self-expression during the recovery process.  

Speak to a specialist at Banyan Chicago by calling 888-280-4763 and asking about our outpatient program to get started on the path to recovery today! 


Related Readings:  

Does Alcohol Make You Depressed? 

Emotional Regulation Skills to Learn in Recovery 



NIH - Genetics of OCD - PMC 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Link Between OCD and Alcohol Abuse
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