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The Relationship Between OCD and Addiction

Everyone experiences the occasional intrusive worry, but for someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, these thoughts can take over their daily routines and responsibilities. For example, if you have OCD, you may feel compelled to turn around several times on the way to work to check that you remembered to turn off the stove, or spend hours scouring your floor to eliminate germs. These time-consuming daily rituals can disrupt your work, studies or home life, eventually leading to chronic unemployment, academic struggles or social isolation.

Is there a connection between OCD and addiction? What should you know about the relationship between these two mental health disorders?

What Is OCD?

If your only knowledge of OCD comes from media depictions, you may mistakenly believe this condition is merely a personality quirk. You might have even poked fun at a detail-oriented friend by asking them if they have a touch of OCD. However, those who live with this condition should know it’s a severe illness that merits professional treatment. 

Characteristics of OCD include obsessive fears and ritualistic behaviors like these:

  • Worries about germs, uncleanliness and sickness
  • A preoccupation with counting objects or arranging items symmetrically
  • Fear of forgetting to do essential tasks or losing valuable possessions
  • Concerns over harm or injury to yourself or your loved ones
  • Superstitions related to specific numbers or counting
  • Compulsively showering, hand-washing, brushing teeth and other grooming behaviors
  • Cleaning and sanitizing your home or workspace to kill germs  
  • Reviewing your work over and over again to find mistakes
  • Repeating movements like touching surfaces a specific number of times
  • Collecting items that hold little to no value to anyone else

Often, people with OCD are aware that their compulsions are irrational, but when they try to stop their behavior, they experience intense distress or anxiety, which perpetuates the vicious cycle. 

OCD and Addiction: What You Should Know

OCD links with higher-than-average rates of drug or alcohol addiction, which can make both disorders worse. People with OCD who self-medicate with alcohol or drugs may worsen their obsessive-compulsive symptoms as a result. They are also more likely to display self-destructive behavior or require hospitalizations.

Isolation is a common characteristic of OCD. Unfortunately, many people living with OCD experience such all-consuming worries that they develop agoraphobia — an anxiety disorder that leaves them housebound. The resulting loneliness can cause depression, thus leading some people with OCD to turn to intoxicating substances to ease their pain. Untreated substance use disorders can increase solitude and depression, which in turn can trigger anxiety and worsen OCD’s compulsions. OCD and addiction will progress in step with each other, escalating harmful impulses and behaviors. 

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

If you simultaneously have a substance use disorder and a mental health challenge like OCD, clinicians call it a dual diagnosis. Treating both conditions at the same time is essential to ensure the co-occurring disorders’ magnifying effects don’t continue to compound. 

At Spearhead Lodge, our mission is to provide world-class treatment to young men dealing with the devastating effects of addiction and a dual diagnosis such as OCD. Change your life by calling us today.