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Is There a Connection Between Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Addiction?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (read ‘What is OCD?’ here) is a chronic mental health condition involving unwanted thoughts known as obsessions that lead to compulsions. This condition can affect anyone and can sometimes be severe.

Addiction is a self-induced condition facilitated by excessive use of drugs. According to research, there may be a connection between OCD and addiction. Most often, a person develops an addiction after they’ve been diagnosed with OCD, resulting in a condition known by a number of terms, including dual diagnosis, comorbidity, or co-occurring disorders.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Obsessions are intense repetitive thoughts, images, and/or urges that cause distress.
  • Compulsions are repetitive thoughts or actions that people feel they must perform.

A person with OCD performs compulsive acts based on their thinking and rationale. Resisting these compulsive actions can cause anxiety and can impact different aspects of an individual’s well-being. Often, these obsessions can cause problems in their careers and personal lives.

OCD affects people in all age groups and demographics, but symptoms start being more noticeable during adolescence. Some people with OCD have intrusive thoughts or perform some kind of ritual, action, or repetitive behavior once in a while. But for people with severe OCD, these intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors may be routine and disrupt their normal lives.

Some common signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to look out for include:

  • Unwanted, or forbidden thoughts involving religion, sex, or harm
  • Uncontrollable thoughts or behaviors
  • Mental images that cause anxiety and stress
  • Irrational fears of contamination
  • Aggressive thoughts toward self and others
  • Excessive cleaning or washing
  • Compulsive counting
  • Fixation on making things symmetrical and precise
  • Repeatedly checking and rechecking things


OCD and Addiction

It may be difficult to deal with OCD-related obsessions and actions. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol may seem to be a solution for some, but these substances only provide temporary relief, and in most cases lead to repeated intake and eventual addiction.

Some people with OCD have trouble addressing their symptoms because they think they only need to address their OCD and not their addiction. But it’s important to treat both, since each can affect the other and make the other worse.

Sadly, many people with mental illnesses and addictions don’t seek the help that they need. They may not feel comfortable sharing their problems with family and friends.

They might worry that others will judge or stigmatize them for their conditions. But if people don’t reach out for help, their conditions may worsen, which could isolate them and lead to the further use of alcohol or drugs to cope with their stress, anxiety, and shame. 


Finding Assistance

But help is available, and the sooner people find help, the better results they might experience. Family members and friends should be aware of any unusual symptoms or behavior that may indicate a mental illness or addiction.

Some treatment options include dual diagnosis treatment facilities that treat addiction as well as OCD, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. These centers employ therapists and medical professionals who use different approaches.

Other treatment approaches may also help. For example transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) stimulates the brain. Although research to test its effectiveness has been limited, this practice has shown promise for treating OCD and cocaine addiction. This and other treatments could help people manage their OCD and addictions and improve their lives.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. 


For further information on OCD:  https://www.myhealth1st.com.au/health-hub/articles/what-is-obsessive-compulsive-disorder/


sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Learn About What Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs Offer

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Cocaine Addiction: Evidence to Date

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