OCD and Addiction: A Complicated and Dangerous Relationship

OCD affects about 2.2 million men and women in the United States, according to the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. It’s also estimated that over 25 percent of those who seek treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder (The Journal of Anxiety Disorders). In fact, significant research shows those suffering from one or more underlying mental health disorders—such as anxiety, PTSD, or OCD—co-occur with a substance use disorder or addiction. 

Individuals who experience OCD symptoms for the first time during childhood are more likely to develop a drug or alcohol problem as a way to cope with overwhelming fear and anxiety. Like other co-occurring disorders, treating an addictive disorder without addressing the psychological symptoms is unlikely to be effective, especially in those with OCD. 

The Effects of OCD

According to Mayo Clinic, “Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) features a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress.” Those suffering from OCD will often have trouble maintaining relationships, have a poor quality of life, and may even experience thoughts of suicide. Theories behind the cause of OCD have been linked to body chemistry, genetics, and environmental factors. Often, OCD centers around specific obsessive themes, such as:

(Mayo Clinic)

Compulsions, or repetitive behaviors, also have themes—such as demanding reassurance from others, washing hands, cleaning, checking things, and counting. 

The Complexity of OCD and Addiction

Often in dual diagnosis disorders, the symptoms of one disorder can cause the symptoms of another to worsen. This is where things get complicated. For example, an anxiety disorder like OCD may lead to using alcohol or other substances to self-medicate or alleviate anxiety symptoms. However, those with OCD find that alcohol or other substances can make their fear and anxiety symptoms worse. The cycle will continue unless proper addiction treatment and therapy—such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (treatment focusing on teaching the client how to identify and change negative behaviors)—have been successfully completed.

Treatment for OCD and Addiction

The stigma surrounding OCD causes many to hide their disorder, self-medicate, and suffer in silence. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder and OCD, get help now. At Daylight Recovery Services, both conditions are treated simultaneously as a dual diagnosis for the best results in recovery. While there is no cure for addiction, it is treatable, and recovery is possible. Contact us today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT to speak with a recovery expert and get the help you need.