OCD and Addiction
About 1 in 100 adults suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and 30% of people with OCD have an active addiction disorder at some point or points in their life. One in 200 children and teens also suffer from OCD. There are two age ranges in which someone is more likely to develop OCD: ages 10 through 12 and late teens to early adulthood. Many other mental health disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia also tend to develop during this time period, especially during the early 20s. Obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment will be helpful for these people.
One of the most common ways through which people with OCD try to soothe their symptoms is alcohol abuse. Alcohol is a sedative, but it will make OCD symptoms worse over time. Alcohol addiction can also mask the symptoms of OCD, making it harder for loved ones to realize that there is an underlying condition. This can encourage the start of a substance abuse disorder. They might blame everything on the substance abuse disorder and not recognize the other mental health disorder.
Do You Need Anxiety or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment?
There are many signs that someone suffers from OCD. Some of these might seem like normal behaviors on their own. However, when several of these symptoms develop, you must get help for your loved one. One of the requirements for a formal diagnosis of OCD is for the symptoms of OCD to interfere with at least one hour of the person’s day.
You shouldn’t mistake OCD for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Someone with GAD will tend to worry about everyday problems like money, but they do so to a very unhealthy degree. They will also catastrophize, or focus on the worst possible outcome. Someone with OCD worries are dealt with using compulsions. There are irrational connections between the obsession and the compulsion.
For example, an assistant with OCD who is making a presentation to their boss might obsessively organize and reorganize their desk. On the other hand, someone with GAD might catastrophize and let their worrying reach a level that makes it hard for them to give their presentation well. It is important to work with a medical professional who is trained to find the correct diagnosis.
What is the Difference Between an Obsession and a Compulsion?
Obsession and compulsions are not interchangeable. An obsession is the initial worry or trigger. A compulsion is the behavior or “ritual” that the person with OCD performs to try to deal with the obsession. Many people with OCD know that their compulsion is not helping or even affecting their obsession. One of the signs of OCD is that the person would rather not be performing those activities.
A common compulsion is washing your hands until they are raw, or even past that point. Someone who washes their hands thoroughly multiple times a day may not suffer from OCD. They might be a medical professional, handle raw food, or have a compromised immune system. Medical diagnosis often depends on the context. However, someone who washes their hands raw because they are concerned about germs or viruses when they have not left their home or had people over might have need obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment.
Some common obsessions are:
- Body fluids even in very low-risk environments such as their own home
- Environmental worries, even uncommon ones like radiation or asbestos in a building that was built without asbestos
- Fear of stealing things, even if they never picked up anything or kept everything the picked up in their cart and paid for it
- Fear of yelling insults or swearing at people who have either done nothing to them or even might not know who they are
- Fear of acting on impulse and hurting themselves or others. This might seem like a different diagnosis, but there is not a desire to harm someone. It’s the fear that they will harm someone without wanting to.
- Obsession with having everything in order
- Fear of losing things
- Fear of throwing away something important
Unwanted sexual thoughts
- Fear that they might physically assault someone even though they have no desire to do so
- Unsettling mental images of incest or other harmful sexual practices
Religious obsessions (scrupulosity)
- Fear of offending God
- Obsessing over what is right and what is wrong
- Developing an illness such as lupus, cancer, or Crohn’s disease
- Superstitions, often about numbers and colors
Common compulsions include:
Cleaning obsessively does not mean they are someone who likes to keep their house or other space very neat. The person will often clean the same object several times and still feel the need to clean it again.
Checking is not looking at your front door two more times after a crime has been reported in your neighborhood. Checking can mean returning to the door to assure yourself it is locked repetitively, especially if there is no logical threat. Another checking behavior is going into your bathroom several times to make sure that your hair straightener is unplugged. They might even return from work to check that the straightener is unplugged.
Someone who rereads the same passage of a book or watches the same movie over and over does not necessarily have OCD. They might be having trouble understanding the meaning, be trying to memorize the passage, or enjoying their favorite part of the story. When it is a symptom of a mental illness would be when the person cannot stop rereading.
Counting the number of times, a task is performed until it has been performed a “lucky” number of times. These compulsions might include turning on and off a light switch or determining how many books are on their shelves whether they are crammed tightly into the shelf or if there are only three books on the shelf. The number of books depends on the “lucky” number.
Getting reassurances by confessing or asking certain things. It is different than looking for compliments. When there is an OCD need for reassurance the assurance is vitally important, not preferred.
OCD and Alcohol
People who have OCD tend to turn to alcohol to try to cope with their psychic pain. Many people who have OCD feel ashamed of their condition and might try to isolate themselves. Alcohol can often mask the symptoms of OCD, which might make the person feel well enough to go out and socialize with others. Despite these temporary effects, alcohol is a bad coping mechanism, which is any behavior in which a person engages to feel better.
An additional reason why they might choose alcohol is that many people drink alcohol regularly so it is not as taboo as heroin or cocaine.
What are the Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder?
There are several signs that you might have alcohol use disorder. Some of these symptoms might suddenly appear, but for other people, showing signs of an addiction might take longer.
Signs of alcohol use disorder include:
Someone might start drinking more and more alcohol to get the same feelings that they got when they first started. Tolerance is built up over time.
When the self-medicating effects of alcohol stop, the person starts going through withdrawal. You experience symptoms such as shaking and nausea when you try to stop drinking. Withdrawal can often start as soon as a certain amount of alcohol has left the person’s system. They might develop mental withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and depression until they get more alcohol.
Inability to Set Limits
You often won’t be able to stop drinking. For example, you might buy a bottle of rum and promise yourself that you’ll only have one glass and end up drinking the whole bottle.
Continuing Drinking Despite Negative Consequences
Someone who is suffering from a substance abuse disorder will continue to abuse substances even under pressure to stop. The pressure might be physical, such as liver damage, or psychological, such as missing your children if they are removed from your care.
Alcohol Addiction Cycle
The cycle of getting the alcohol no matter what and drinking until they run out of alcohol is one of the biggest symptoms. When they run out, they will do anything they can to get more. This cycle can grow shorter and shorter until there is, as close as possible, a non-stop cycle with no breaks from drinking or trying to obtain more alcohol.
Alcohol Becomes the Most Important Part of Your life
Alcohol use becomes the only thing that matters. Someone with an addiction disorder will often miss things that were important to them, such as an anniversary dinner, work, social events with friends such as camping or concerts. All of this will not only isolate you, but it will also damage your relationship with your loved ones.
Treatment for Dual Diagnosis is Important
Luckily, there are treatment options available for people with both OCD and a substance use disorder. When two or more mental health issues are present in the same person and one of those disorders is addiction, they have a dual diagnosis. These disorders must be treated together because if someone is starting their road to recovery from an alcohol addiction, they will likely relapse when they leave clinical care because they are still in pain from their OCD. When you start managing your OCD, your addiction won’t just go away since it’s become an independent issue.
This is why it is important to be properly evaluated. If someone is being treated for GAD and they have OCD, treatment won’t be nearly as effective. You must have medical professionals who are trained in working with people who have a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder. Sometimes this takes the form of a professional who deals exclusively with diagnosis and doesn’t go on to be a part of further care. Other times it’s a professional who not only diagnoses their patient but becomes part of the recovery team, too.
Get Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment Today
It is important for you to find your road to recovery and proper management of your OCD and substance use disorder. The road to recovery can be hard, but it is also extremely rewarding. During therapy, you can start to heal your bonds with your loved ones and start a new fulfilling life.
When you are ready to get help, please contact Harmony Ridge. We have the tools you need to overcome your dual diagnosis. Hope is only a phone call away.