There is a noticeable link between mental health disorders such as OCD and addiction. This type of anxiety disorder is often misunderstood and frequently goes without the proper treatment required to keep symptoms manageable. If you’ve turned to substances in an attempt to manage your burdensome obsessions and compulsions, you’re not alone. However, understanding the link between your OCD and substance abuse may help you to seek healthier treatment options.
The Relationship Between OCD and Addiction
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is commonly depicted as people repeatedly washing their hands or counting the number of steps they take until they reach their destination. Although these are sometimes behaviors seen in those diagnosed with this type of anxiety disorder, OCD goes beyond particular ritualistic behaviors. Severe cases of OCD can take up hours of your day because of compulsive behaviors.
If you have OCD, you know how debilitating and time-consuming it is to manage your obsessions. You may also understand the unrealistic connection between your obsessions and compulsions but feel powerless to stop them. And carrying out daily compulsions can negatively impact school and work performance, personal relationships, and your overall mental wellness. As a result, the emotional and sometimes physical toll can lead to using substances to cope.
There isn’t a straightforward correlation between OCD and substance use disorders because there are many factors that influence the development of each disorder. But individuals with OCD are at a high risk for substance abuse if their OCD symptoms are unmanageable.
Drug and alcohol use can’t cause the symptoms of OCD the way it can cause symptoms of other anxiety disorders. However, OCD and addiction can still go hand in hand. Together, they can make it more difficult to find healthy methods of relief from obsessions, leading to more severe OCD and addiction.
Risk Factors for OCD and Addiction
As with other mental health disorders, research shows that OCD can stem from several factors. Some of the factors that play a role in the development of the disorder include low levels of serotonin in the brain, genetic factors, and a combination of learned behaviors and external stressors. A majority of these factors are also risk factors for developing a substance use disorder, which further connects OCD and addiction.
Many individuals who have a mental illness develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives to help mitigate symptoms. This includes individuals with OCD. Alcohol and drug abuse can temporarily mask OCD symptoms, but this type of self-medication only provides short-term relief. Without comprehensive addiction treatment, individuals continue to stay in a cycle of obsession and seeking relief from substances that only magnify the underlying issues.
There’s speculation that more severe cases of OCD, which are linked with higher levels of impulsivity, come with a higher risk of substance abuse than those with less severe symptoms. Impulsivity refers to the inability to hold back thoughts or the sudden desire to act out certain behaviors. In the case of OCD and addiction, individuals may struggle even more to stop the impulse to consume drugs or alcohol because they are inherently addictive.
How Addiction Impacts Obsessions and Compulsions
The ritualistic compulsions acted out to cope with obsessions may mimic signs of addiction. For example, they both create irresistible urges that can cause emotional distress when behaviors can’t be acted out. These obsessions or impulses can become magnified when someone is struggling with OCD and addiction.
Addictive behaviors or substances become a reward when they offer something enjoyable or a means of escaping unmanageable symptoms. However, these effects are only temporary and cause more harm in the long run. The inability to stop abusing drugs and alcohol because of addiction is what makes these habits similar to compulsions. Those who struggle with unmanageable compulsions may have a more difficult time beginning recovery. But it’s not impossible.
Individuals struggling with OCD and addiction would best benefit from a dual diagnosis program. This comprehensive treatment style tackles problems and symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder in addition to addiction. Treatment programs that address only one of the disorders are not as effective because of the impact each disorder has on the other.
When to Seek Help for OCD and Addiction
There’s never a wrong time to seek help in managing your OCD and addiction. With that said, it’s time to seek treatment if your symptoms are worsening and you’re relying on substances to manage them. Although there is no cure, there are a variety of options when it comes to treatment. Battling addiction alongside your OCD may add extra challenges. But with the right combination of therapy modalities, you can learn to manage your mental health without the desire to use drugs or alcohol.
OCD and addiction can cause major disruptions in your life. Maybe you’ve received medical advice or treatment in the past but it only addressed the symptoms of one disorder. Without comprehensive and individualized care, methods that work for others may not work for your particular symptoms. The Willough at Naples provides inclusive dual diagnosis treatment for OCD so every patient can get the help they need.
Treatment for OCD and Addiction
If you’re struggling with addiction, your first stop in recovery may include drug and alcohol detox. This safe and medically supervised process will eliminate any toxins in your body. The length of your detox process will depend on the substances you’ve been using and for how long. But starting with detoxification will help you more effectively participate in the following steps of your residential treatment plan.
A method of treatment included in the dual diagnosis program at The Willough at Naples is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of talk therapy is an evidence-based method that can help individuals with OCD replace debilitating compulsions with new behaviors. This works by addressing and talking through harmful patterns of behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help you find coping mechanisms that replace the need for substances to temporarily alleviate unwanted obsessions.
Individuals with OCD can also benefit from medication management to mitigate these symptoms. As mentioned, researchers have found a link between OCD and low levels of serotonin. Medications such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) can help improve brain functioning to reduce the severity of symptoms. Additionally, SRIs work well in combination with therapy methods such as CBT therapy.
If you struggle with OCD and addiction, dual diagnosis will provide the necessary comprehensive treatment to address both disorders. Your care team at the center will ensure that you receive the resources and tools necessary for long-term recovery.
Enroll in OCD Treatment at The Willough at Naples
It may take time for you to decide that you’re ready to enroll in a treatment program. But that’s okay. Our mental health and addiction experts will be here when you decide it’s time to begin your recovery journey.
To learn more about how The Willough at Naples can provide OCD and addiction services that can help you, call the admissions office at 800-722-0100 or fill out a confidential contact form online. We are more than happy to answer any of the questions you may have about seeking treatment to improve your mental health.
Our treatment center provides a nurturing and safe environment to help you learn how to better manage the symptoms of your disorders. With the support of our multidisciplinary staff, you can overcome OCD and addiction.