OCD and Addiction

Those struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs may feel that they are being controlled by obsessive cravings and thoughts that intrude on their daily activities. Compulsive behavior is a hallmark of addiction. This condition is characterized by continuous drug use and drug seeking behavior in spite of harmful consequences.

Repetitive actions and thoughts are also classic symptoms of OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As a matter of fact, the line between OCD and addiction can become blurry when a person who is suffering from this condition is also abusing alcohol or drugs.

What is OCD?

People all experience irrational worries or fears now and then. If people have ever gone back to their home to double check their locks or washed their hands a number of times after being exposed to germs, they know what it is like to experience OCD behavior on a small scale. For individuals who have been diagnosed with this disorder, these compulsive behaviors and anxieties are overwhelming and uncontrollable.

Like alcohol or drug addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder may make it difficult for a person to lead a stable, healthy life. Being fearful and anxious all of the time can put a great strain on a person’s psyche even if these fears are irrational.

A person who is suffering from OCD utilizes ritualistic and repetitive behaviors to relieve the stress of their obsessions. They may believe that something terrible will happen to them if they do not wash their hands 100 times a day or count all the ants in their home.

Signs and Symptoms of OCD

There are two types of symptoms found in a person who is suffering from an OCD disorder. These are compulsive and obsessive symptoms. OCD obsessions are persistent, repeated and unwanted images or urges that cause anxiety and distress.

A person may want to get rid of them by performing a ritual. These obsessions usually intrude when a person is trying to think of or do other things. Obsessions often have themes to them that include the following.

  • Unwanted thoughts including religious or sexual subjects or aggression
  • Horrific or aggressive thoughts about harming themselves and others
  • Having things symmetrical and orderly
  • Fear of dirt and contamination

Examples of obsession signs and symptoms include the following.

  • Doubts that they have turned off the stove or locked the door
  • Fear of being contaminated by touching objects or shaking hands with other people
  • Intense stress when objects are not facing a certain way or in order
  • Images of hurting themselves or someone else
  • Thoughts about acting inappropriately and shouting obscenities
  • Avoidance of situations that can cause obsessions such as the shaking hands

On the other hand, an OCD compulsion is a repetitive behavior that a person feels driven to perform. These behaviors are meant to reduce or prevent anxiety related to their obsessions or prevent something bad from happening. However, engaging in compulsions brings no pleasure.

Examples of compulsion signs and symptoms include the following.

  • Counting in certain patterns
  • Silently repeating a word, phrase or prayer
  • Checking doors repeatedly to make sure that they are locked
  • Hand washing until their skin becomes raw

The relationship between OCD and addiction

It is not uncommon for people who are suffering from OCD to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. When they are afraid or anxious, tranquilizers or alcohol can take the edge off their anxiety and make them feel that they are temporarily free from the grip of their obsessive thoughts. Unfortunately, these thoughts usually return after the effect of these substances wears off.

As a matter of fact, alcohol and drugs can actually worsen symptoms of OCD and give this malady even more power in a person’s life. According to a study that the Journal of Anxiety Disorders published, OCD disorders develop gradually, and a lot of people live with it for many years before seeking treatment. In the meantime, alcohol or drugs are used to control their symptoms.

The bottom line

OCD  and addiction is a difficult disorder. What is worse is that it puts people who are not using drugs on a path of destruction. With this in mind, people should seek treatment for this disorder immediately as it can change not only their lives but also those of their loved ones as well.

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