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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Addiction

Obsessive compulsive disorder and addiction commonly occur together. But what is obsessive compulsive disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder affecting over 500.000 Australians. Nearly 3 per cent of people in Australia experience OCD in their lifetime.

Sufferers of OCD experience a relentless cycle of negative and/or intrusive thoughts (obsessions) forcing them to perform repetitive actions (compulsions), which can drastically impair their daily lives.

Classic symptoms of OCD include:

  • Overwhelming urges to check for things (i.e. whether doors are locked, appliances are turned off or items are still where you left them) in order to calm recurring worries
  • Feeling constantly anxious about one’s own safety or the safety of loved ones even though no real danger is present, often paired with the need to perform rituals in order to ward off non-specific dangers (i.e. if I do not touch the mailbox four times on my way past, my mother will die)
  • Inability to stop tidying and rearranging things around the house, office, car etc. in a very specific pattern and experiencing anxiety if the order of these things is disturbed
  • The need to carry out tasks over and over in a very precise fashion, i.e. hand washing, turning lights off, testing the integrity of a loose floorboard

People experiencing symptoms of OCD are often aware that their thoughts and actions are irrational, yet find themselves unable to control their urges and stop their repetitive behaviours.

Often the carrying out of checks or other compulsive rituals will bring feelings of relief, however, these are usually short lived and before long the rituals will need to be repeated.

Symptoms of OCD have been diagnosed in children as young as six; however, clear symptoms tend to manifest during adolescence and are bound to grow progressively more severe as time passes.

If left untreated OCD can turn into a debilitating condition.

In extreme cases sufferers will become unable to leave the house in order to go to work or attend school, adding social isolation to their already overwhelming load of problems.

How do obsessive compulsive disorder and addiction relate?

In order to cope with the relentless assault of negative thoughts, persons with OCD may be tempted to turn to drugs and/or alcohol to silence their worries.

However, as substance abuse decreases levels of self-control it can often have the opposite effect.

Sufferers of OCD are unable to resist their urges when sober, even though they might very well be aware of their absurdity; being intoxicated can leave them even more at the mercy of their compulsions.

The same is true for the effect on drugs and alcohol on obsessive thoughts, especially when it comes to hallucinogens.

As drug use is prone to alter the user’s perception of reality, it can also intensify the fears and anxieties of an individual with OCD and make them seem more tangible.

How important is dual treatment?

When obsessive compulsive disorder and addiction occur together, neither can be treated effectively without also addressing the other.

If addiction treatment is administered while neglecting to deal with the patients OCD, the risk of relapse increases, as the patients is likely to resort to self-medication if the OCD symptoms persist.

In order to give the patient the best chance at long-term recovery, a Dual Treatment plan taking into consideration all disorders present is invaluable.

Find out more

Mental Health and Addiction
Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders
Common Co-Occurring Disorders
Mental Health Effects of Ice
Are Mental Health and Addiction Connected?

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