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The Link Between OCD and Addiction

Statistics on obsessive-compulsive disorder are challenging to find, and much of the available data is outdated. The most current data from the National Institutes of Health indicates as many as 1 out of every 40 adults in the United States have OCD. As many as 40% of those who struggle with OCD also have a substance use disorder, and many also experience symptoms of another co-occurring mental health condition. 

What Is OCD?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders indicates OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness characterized by overwhelming and unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) and excessive, irrational urges to do specific things (compulsions). If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the emotional challenges you face go well beyond worry that you forgot to turn off the iron or lock the front door. Someone who meets the diagnostic criteria for OCD feels the overwhelming urge to act out certain habits or rituals repeatedly. It does not matter if they understand that the rituals or habits are undesirable, unnecessary, or serve no beneficial purpose. People who struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder often realize their behaviors, thoughts, and actions are illogical; however, they are unable to stop performing them even if they know those actions lead to significant challenges in their day-to-day lives. 

Understanding the difficulties associated with OCD requires understanding the primary symptoms of the illness; obsessions and compulsions. There are multiple types of OCD that often have varying symptoms; however, everyone with an OCD diagnosis will experience obsessions and compulsions to some degree. Obsessions are thoughts or feelings that “tell” you that you need to do something. Compulsions, on the other hand, are actions or behaviors that are used to satisfy those thoughts. For symptoms to be diagnosed as OCD, obsessions and compulsions must last for an hour or more each day and lead to significant interference with day-to-day life. 

What Is Addiction? 

Addiction is a complex disease that affects each person in unique ways. Addiction (or substance use disorder) is not a choice, and it is not a moral failing. It is an overwhelming and challenging struggle that affects the lives of millions of people across the nation each year. Symptoms of addiction include the inability to reduce or stop using a substance despite wanting to or understanding the known dangerous impacts of ongoing use. 

When you struggle with addiction, you have an intense and overwhelming focus on obtaining and using your substance of choice, whether drugs or alcohol. With time, this focus takes over and inevitably interferes with day-to-day functioning. Without comprehensive addiction treatment, ongoing substance addiction leads to changes to the brain, including those that control decision making, behavior, memory, learning, and judgment. 

What To Do if You Have OCD and Addiction

Although prevalence rates are difficult to verify, statistics on OCD indicate it is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. The symptoms of OCD can lead to overwhelming emotional and psychological difficulties. It is not at all uncommon for someone suffering from OCD to turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms. Unfortunately, this practice only provides a brief window of relief before the substance wears off and symptoms return. The desire to continue feeling freedom from symptoms leads to repeated use whenever obsessions occur. In time, this will lead to dependency and addiction. 

If you have OCD and addiction, it is vital to seek treatment at a treatment center skilled in addressing dual-diagnosis conditions. At a dual-diagnosis treatment program, trained medical and mental health providers will work with you to design a treatment plan that addresses both conditions simultaneously. It is essential to overcome addiction and learn safer, healthier ways to manage OCD symptoms to avoid potential relapse in the future. Contact our admissions team at Relevance Recovery today if you or a loved one would like to learn more about how dual-diagnosis treatment can help you overcome OCD and addiction. 

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