Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be a challenging condition to manage and live with. It is common to turn to substances to cope with the depressing and isolating effects of pervasive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Understanding this disorder and its connection to addiction may help to prevent further complications with this complex mental health condition. Alternatively, it may help to realize that help is only around the corner in addiction treatment.
What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by exactly what its name suggests: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions can be recurring thoughts, mental images, or urges that usually cause anxiety or fear. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that can come in various forms and are typically in response to obsessive thoughts. Acting out the behavior provides temporary relief from negative emotions.
By their very nature, these thoughts and behaviors are extremely difficult to control and can interfere with daily tasks and interactions with others. Fortunately, individuals with OCD usually suspect that their thoughts and behaviors are unreasonable, opening up the possibility of managing the condition with medication, therapy, or a combination of both. However, this is not always the case. Some have a level of self-awareness that exists on a spectrum of very aware to completely unaware that their symptoms are excessive.
What Are the Signs of OCD?
Not all individuals experience OCD in the same way. On the one hand, some individuals meet all the standard criteria for OCD, but others only satisfy a few. Diagnosing OCD can be tricky, especially when some symptoms overlap with those of anxiety disorders and depression. Despite this heterogeneity, there are a few important signs that indicate a person is struggling with OCD:
- The person cannot control their thoughts or behaviors despite recognizing that they are excessive.
- They spend at least one hour a day thinking about or acting out the behaviors.
- The person does not necessarily receive pleasure from the behaviors but instead gets a sense of relief from the anxiety caused by the thoughts.
- They experience significant daily disruptions as a result of their condition.
Obsessions and compulsions are triggered by a person, place, or thing that is unique to that individual. The trigger is usually rooted in areas of a person’s life that are important to them or where they have the most insecurity or doubt.
What Are Some Subtypes of OCD?
This condition can vary largely between individuals, meaning that two people may have different types of obsessions or rituals. As a result, there is a diversity of subtypes associated with specific obsessions and compulsions. A few common ones include the following:
- Harm obsessions, based on the fear of danger or life-threatening circumstances, are accompanied by finding ways to validate that harm is not present, like checking that the stove is off or the door is locked.
- Contamination obsessions, based on the fear of germs or dirtiness, are accompanied by ritualistic body washing or cleaning.
- Symmetry obsessions, based on the fear that things are not in perfect order or just right, are accompanied by ordering, arranging, counting, and other compulsions.
Other OCD symptoms can include hoarding due to the fear of losing items that one has an emotional attachment to. It is also possible to have obsessions without compulsions. This tends to involve taboo themes that can be sexual, violent, or religious in nature.
Why Do the Emotional Symptoms Matter?
Dealing with the symptoms of OCD can be scary. Aside from the feelings of anxiety when triggered, a person with OCD may also feel sad, empty, lonely, angry, or indifferent. Going through the same compelling motions every day becomes exhausting for the body and draining on the mind. It can also be self-isolating, especially for individuals that are aware their behavior is problematic, but, despite their best efforts, they cannot overcome their condition.
As a result, OCD may result in other disorders, like depression and substance use disorder (SUD). SAMSHA explains that research shows how OCD frequently co-occurs with SUDs. Individuals with both conditions may also be at a greater risk of suicide compared to individuals with OCD. A person may start using drugs or alcohol to cope with their OCD symptoms, making treatment and recovery more complicated.
There’s Always Hope
OCD can be a difficult condition to live with, especially when complicated by addiction. Luckily, it is possible to learn healthy coping mechanisms and management skills that will assist in making life a little easier. There are also effective medications and therapies to help stabilize this condition.
When struggling with OCD and with drugs or alcohol, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. The cycle of addiction intensifies with repeated substance use and exacerbates pre-existing mental conditions like OCD.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition marked by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. OCD is associated with significant distress that may lead a person to numb their discomfort with drugs or alcohol. Addiction intensifies mental health problems and requires a different treatment approach when it co-occurs with OCD. Oceanfront Recovery is a treatment facility located in Laguna Beach, CA. Our team is trained and experienced in treating addiction and co-occurring conditions like OCD. We understand how frustrating it can be to prevent yourself from succumbing to urges. Intrusive thoughts may make you feel shameful or guilty. It can also be frustrating when those who don’t have the condition have trouble understanding where you’re coming from. We’re here to help. Our clinicians are schooled in a range of effective therapies and can help you develop the necessary skills to manage your OCD and addiction. Call us today at (877) 279-1777 to learn more about how we can help.