addiction and OCD

Addiction and OCD

Mental illnesses often co-occur with substance addictions. One reason for this is that people with mental illnesses often start abusing substances to cope. Another reason for this is that the chemical changes that substance addictions cause to the brain often cause people to develop mental illness symptoms. One mental illness that often co-occurs with substance addiction is obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. Discover more about the co-occurring disorder that is addiction and OCD here.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a disorder that causes people to not be able to stop doing something. When it comes to substance addiction, that something is abusing substances. 

Substance addiction, in particular, is characterized by excessive substance abuse causing chemical changes to one’s brain. It is these chemical changes that often trigger the development of mental illnesses in addicts. Another primary characteristic of a person that suffers from substance addiction is the inability to stop using substances even when one attempts to. 

What is OCD?

OCD, which is the acronym for obsessive-compulsive disorder, is a type of anxiety disorder that causes people to experience re-occurring unwanted thoughts or actions that disrupt their daily lives and make it hard for them to function normally. Oftentimes, fear is the motivation behind these unwanted thoughts and actions. 

The unwanted thoughts that people with OCD may experience are known as obsessions while the unwanted actions that people with OCD may experience are known as compulsions. An example of re-occurring obsessions due to OCD can be constantly thinking about one’s fear of germs. Such an obsessive thought can cause people to avoid touching things or other people to the point where it interferes with their ability to get through the day. 

An example of an unwanted action, or compulsion, that a person with OCD may experience is constantly feeling the need to count one’s steps while in a place. Such a simple compulsion can become so excessive in a person that suffers from OCD that it may hinder that person from functioning normally and attending certain events. 

Types of OCD

Nearly all forms of OCD can fall into one of four categories. These four categories are:

    • Checking – Having the constant need to repeatedly check things such as the locks or alarms on doors. Constantly checking one’s health status to see if one is pregnant or sick is also a common form of a checking obsession. 
    • Contamination – A fear of things that are dirty and have germs. People with this type of OCD often feel the need to compulsively clean themselves and the objects around them.  
    • Symmetry and Ordering – The need to have everything in a certain order or lined up in a certain way. For example, people with OCD may continuously line up their clothes in a certain order to the point where it takes massive amounts of time out of their day. 
    • Ruminations and intrusive thoughts – This is an obsession with lines of thought that are intrusive and continuously pop up in one’s mind. Ruminations and intrusive thoughts are often violent, sexual, and/or disturbing.

Most Common OCD Obsessions 

Some OCD obsessions are more common than others. Some of the most common types of OCD obsessions include the following:

1. Contamination

Fear of contamination is one of the most common OCD obsessions. Contamination includes anything from bodily fluids to germs, disease, contaminants, dirt, and cleaning chemicals. 

2. Loss of Control

Many other people that suffer from OCD obsessions have a fear of not being in control due to intrusive thoughts that continuously enter their brains. Such people also don’t like experiencing a loss of control because they don’t like the unknown. 

Some examples of “loss of control” OCD obsessions include fearing violent and disturbing images in one’s mind, fear of impulsively hurting others, fear of stealing, and fear of blurting out expletive language. 

3. Perfectionism

The OCD obsession of perfectionism is obsessively wanting things to be perfect in your mind. Examples of perfectionism OCD obsessions include the fear of losing or throwing out important items, having a constant need for all things to be exact and even, and having an obsessive need to never forget anything important. 

4. Unwanted Sexual Thoughts

Many people with OCD struggle to manage their sexual thoughts. In fact, there are people that suffer from the OCD obsession of thinking about children or family members in a perverted manner, thinking about sex and sexual impulses in general, obsessively thinking about homosexuality, and/or obsessively thinking about aggressive sexual behaviors. 

5. Moral/Religious Concerns

On the other hand, some people with OCD obsessively think about morality and whether or not their actions are right or wrong in the eyes of God. Such people also often obsess about whether or not their actions are offending God. 

6. Harming Others

Just as the title of this OCD obsession states, many people with OCD obsess about whether or not they’re harming other people. 

7. Hoarding

Hoarding is a type of OCD that causes people to obsessively become attached to items to the point that they never want to get rid of anything, even if it is old and serves no purpose. As a result, hoarders get extremely anxious at the thought of throwing away any personal items. 

Most Common OCD Compulsions

Common OCD compulsions align with the common OCD obsessions. For example, contamination compulsions include washing one’s hands and body excessively. Perfectionism OCD compulsions include lining things up in a particular order over and over again or counting things over and over again. 

Unwanted sexual thoughts OCD compulsions can cause people to frequently sexually pleasure themselves. Moral/religious OCD compulsions can simply be praying excessively for forgiveness whenever one feels like he or she may have done something wrong. 

Harming others’ OCD compulsions include being overly nice and a people pleaser to avoid developing any issues with anyone or harming anyone. When it comes to hoarding, the act of hoarding itself is an OCD compulsion to help one avoid losing things that he or she may be attached to. 

Statistics on OCD

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 2.3% of people in the U.S. suffer from OCD. This is equivalent to approximately 1 in 40 U.S. adults and 1 in 100 U.S. children. 

According to research done at Harvard University, females suffer from OCD at higher rates than men do in the U.S. This is evident as 1.8% of people being diagnosed with OCD within a 1 year period were female as opposed to the 0.5% of men being diagnosed with OCD within that time period. 

Although the exact cause for the development of OCD is unknown, the evidence does show that it could partly be due to genetics. According to the American Journal of Medical Genetics, people with a family history of OCD have a 25% greater chance of developing OCD themselves. 

The average age that people develop OCD according to Molecular Psychiatry magazine of 2008 is around 19 or 20 years old. People with early-onset OCD develop it as early as 10 years of age, or even before. 

Men tend to develop OCD prior to women though. According to a 2014 issue of Psychological Medicine, people with early-onset OCD also tend to suffer from more severe OCD symptoms and higher rates of ADHD, depression, and bipolar disorder.  

OCD and Other Mental Illnesses

 Not only are people with OCD more likely to develop substance use disorders, but they are also more likely to develop other mental illnesses. As a result, people that suffer from OCD often suffer from other mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and impulsive control disorders. 

Causes of Addiction

People develop substance addictions for a number of reasons. Sometimes people develop substance addictions because they continue to abuse substances to cope with their mental illnesses. For example, people that suffer from addiction and OCD may have developed the addiction due to abusing substances to cope with OCD. 

Other people develop substance addictions because they simply choose to abuse them to experience their euphoric effects. Some people even develop addictions to substances such as prescription medications unintentionally because they used the medications for a longer period of time than they were supposed to or they took more of the medications at one time than they were supposed to. 

People’s environments can also impact why they start abusing substances and develop substance addictions. For example, people that live in areas of high poverty, crime, or drug use rates are more likely to start abusing substances and, in turn, develop substance addictions. People that experience abuse or are just exposed to substance use at a young age also have a greater chance of developing substance addictions one day. 

What Causes OCD?

The exact causes of developing OCD are unknown. Some researchers believe it is due to genetics and imbalances in people’s neurochemistry though. 

Considering people with substance addictions develop an imbalance in their neurochemistry due to their excessive substance abuse, people that suffer from addiction and OCD may have developed OCD because of the imbalances in their brain’s chemistry due to their substance abuse. 

Thus, it is possible that substance addiction can trigger the development of OCD in people. This is especially true if those people already have a genetic predisposition to developing OCD. 

Some other theories for the cause of OCD include structural abnormalities in the brain’s frontal lobes and basal ganglia and childhood illness and environmental toxins. Ultimately, most researchers theorize that people usually develop OCD due to a combination of biological and environmental factors though. 

What Are Common Signs and Symptoms of Addiction?

There are many different signs and symptoms that a person is developing a substance addiction. Some of the common ones are listed below.

  • No longer enjoying taking part in activities that he or she once enjoyed
  • A change in one’s social circle
  • No longer caring about one’s personal hygiene
  • Experiencing financial issues
  • Going to different pharmacies to receive more of a prescription than he or she is supposed to be able to get
  • Lying, cheating, and stealing
  • Continuing to abuse drugs even after it has clearly caused issues in one’s life
  • Not being able to stop using substances even when one tries
  • Having problems at school or work

What Are Typical Signs and Symptoms of OCD?

Many of the signs and symptoms of OCD correspond to the common types of OCD obsessions and compulsions. Some common signs and symptoms of OCD include the following:

  • Excessively washing one’s hands and body over and over again
  • Always feeling the need to line things up in a certain order
  • Feeling the need to count things
  • Never wanting to let go of things or throw things away
  • Being a people pleasure
  • Excessively praying for forgiveness
  • Making physical motions over and over again when stressed
  • Playing with one’s hair 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Addiction and OCD

When treating co-occurring addiction and OCD, it’s important to do so through a dual diagnosis treatment program. This is because substance use and mental health disorders that occur at the same time likely play on one another. Thus, the only way to fully treat either or both conditions within a dual diagnosis is to do so simultaneously. 

If a person doesn’t treat both disorders within a dual diagnosis simultaneously, the lingering disorder will trigger the reappearance of the treated disorder. Luckily, Florida Center for Recovery offers dual diagnosis treatment to all of its patients. 

The dual diagnosis treatment programs at Florida Center for Recovery are specialized by substance and individualized by the person. Thus, rehab patients can receive care for addiction and OCD along with a number of other co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders if need be. 

To learn more about addiction and OCD and the other dual diagnosis treatment programs at Florida Center for Recovery, contact us today.

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