Simultaneously Treating OCD and Addiction

treating OCD

Treating OCD and Addiction Simultaneously

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder that is debilitating for those that live with its symptoms from day to day. It affects a person’s ability to perform daily tasks and seems to control all areas of life. Unfortunately, many undiagnosed individuals do not seek help for their OCD symptoms instead turn to drugs and alcohol in hopes to find some form of relief. This leads to a concurring anxiety disorder and addiction, which doctors treat with dual diagnosis therapy in addiction treatment.

What is OCD?

Those that have OCD show characteristics of both obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts that bring about an immense feeling of anxiety. These thoughts can be images, pessimistic views, or ideas that happen repeatedly, even if the individual knows them to be untrue or unrealistic. Compulsions are behaviors that reduce the anxiety from these thoughts. People struggling with OCD may try to stop or prevent these behaviors but are unsuccessful because they feel a debilitating need to perform them. 

What Causes OCD?

Much research has gone into what causes OCD. Scientists currently believe biological factors lead to OCD in most cases. Of course, there are also environmental and social factors that play a part in any anxiety disorder. Main causes of OCD include:

Biological Factors: Research shows that chemical imbalance and insufficiency may play a part in a person’s risk of developing OCD. Low amounts of serotonin, a natural mood regulator found in the brain, account for the imbalances seen in OCD patients. Additionally, there is research that proves that these chemical imbalances or insufficiencies may be due to genetic inheritance. So, family history of OCD is likely to raise the risk for an individual to develop OCD.

Environmental Factors: There are studies that show that OCD can be brought on by environmental factors. For example, observing the same behaviors in family members as a child.

Social Factors: Stressful situations like pregnancy, divorce, or losing a loved one can bring about anxiety that results in compulsive behavior and eventually leading to the development of OCD.

Examples of Compulsions and Behaviors

There are many thoughts and reactive behaviors that can generate OCD symptoms. Some common thoughts that lead to compulsions may include:

  • The fear of acting out aggressively: harming others, harming the self, participating in criminal activity, or being the cause of a horrific incident.
  • The fear of contamination: being overly cautious not to touch or ingest anything that may contain germs or bacteria that may lead to disease. May also include an extreme abhorrence for waste.
  • Obsession with symmetry: being overly aware that things are our of place or repeating thoughts or ideas about symmetry.
  • The fear of sex: perverse and repetitive thoughts about aggressive or disturbing sexual activity.
  • Obsession with body image: repetitive thoughts and ideas that body image is not up to par.
  • Hoarding obsession: thoughts that involve a fear of throwing things away.

Compulsions brought on by these fears may include:

  • Cleaning either the self or house repeatedly to ensure cleanliness. Washing hands, taking showers, and scrubbing floors once already clean are examples.
  • Repeating things like numbers or sayings over and over again either out loud or in the mind. Also, repeating actions like locking doors or touching things before committing an action.
  • Keeping rituals before completing tasks. Individuals may choose to count to a certain number before taking a step, rub silverware before eating, or make lists before daily activities.

Treating OCD and Addiction

It is a well-known fact in the addiction treatment world, those with mental disorders are at a higher chance to develop addictions. Those with OCD have to deal with debilitating and frustrating symptoms. As a result, they are more prone to drugs or alcohol to cope with these symptoms. Also, individuals who are addicted to alcohol or drugs may develop OCD, triggered by the stresses of addiction. Whichever came first, it is important to focus on treating both concurrently to get the best chance of success for recovery.

If you are struggling with both addiction and OCD, it’s important to utilize a treatment facility that concurrently treats both. The program focuses on diagnosing mental health disorders, identifying the underlying causes of addiction, prescribing appropriate medications, and utilizing counseling services. Treating OCD and addiction at once gives an individual a better chance of recovery success.

If the OCD is treated and addiction is not addressed, the individual is likely to use drugs or alcohol. Even if the individual is on medications, the untreated addiction will eventually cause problems. If the individual is only treated for addiction, the OCD is left unmanageable and the individual is likely to relapse. 

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