Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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obsessive compulsive disorder

Addiction and OCD

All of us suffer from intense worries or thoughts on occasion. This especially happens if we are in the midst of a difficult period in our lives. This isn’t always a cause for concern. When suffering from OCD, however, these thoughts are chronic. This means they’re on repeat and interfere with the everyday lives of those afflicted even when nothing is wrong. 

If you suffer from OCD, these all-encompassing obsessions can take you out of the present moment. They can make it very difficult to maintain positive moods, schedules, relationships, and a high-quality life. Many times people suffering from OCD turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms and eventually become addicted. When addiction and OCD conditions co-occur, a whole host of mental and physical health challenges will arise. Individuals who suffer from co-occurring disorders should seek professional treatment in order to recover. 

Understanding OCD

Although professionals do not know the root of OCD, research and studies have shown that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder tends to be present in those who have an imbalance in their neurochemistry. Specifically, the National Alliance on Mental Illness states that imbalances in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps with emotional regulation, moods, metabolism, sleep patterns link to OCD tendencies. There is also strong evidence that OCD can occur as a result of trauma or family history. 

OCD can present in many ways, and most fall into one of the following categories:

  • Washers: This type of OCD profile usually presents itself with cleaning or hand-washing compulsions and extreme fear of germs
  • Checkers: This type of OCD is when someone feels the need to repeatedly check things such as making sure the door is locked over and over or shutting off appliances. Even if they know they did, their OCD causes them to fear they forgot. 
  • Counters/ Organizers: This is when someone has a compulsion to organize and arrange things in a very specific way. They may need things to be organized through a certain number of patterns, colors, or arrangements. 
  • Hoarders: Hoarders have a compulsion to keep everything and fear that if they throw it away they will need it at some point. 

OCD and Addiction: Dual Diagnosis

The side effects and mental strain of constantly dealing with OCD can lead people to search for relief in unhealthy ways. Often this means reverting to drugs and alcohol to ease their symptoms. This can result in the formation of a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring conditions. This term represents when someone is suffering from a mental illness and comorbid substance abuse problem

Participants in a study that looked at the relationship between OCD and addiction reported that their substance abuse started after they began to experience OCD symptoms. The study also showed that it’s more common for people who have had OCD longer (since childhood) to abuse drugs or alcohol later in life. Since OCD can cause social isolation, anxiety is often born from the condition. The combination of OCD, addiction, and anxiety can be quite complicated and difficult to understand or treat. 

Once OCD and Addiction become intertwined, the two co-occurring conditions feed off one another and can’t truly be separated when trying to understand how they are affecting the individual. Alcohol and drugs become a part of the OCD, as people worry without them they will experience the more severe symptoms of OCD again. This dangerous spiral can cause severe mental and physical health challenges if not properly addressed by a medical professional. 

What Type of Substance Abuse Commonly Co-Occurs with OCD?

Addictions vary in type and severity since everyone has a different chemical makeup, personal history, and genetic base. Depending on the type of compulsions you have, different drugs will help ease certain symptoms of OCD. Some people combine multiple, while others have a drug of choice. Some of the more common addictions that co-occur with OCD include:

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription PainKillers
  • Marijuana 
  • Heroine
  • Cocaine
  • Behavioral Addictions

Regardless of the type of addiction, using any addiction as a vice to cope with OCD is dangerous. The combination of OCD and drugs and/or addictive behavior leads to both a continuation of compulsive behaviors and the development of a mental and physical addiction that can further damage the individual’s mental and physical wellbeing. 

OCD and Addiction: Can they Be Treated Separately?  

Researchers and clinicians alike understand OCD as a chronic and disabling mental illness. The condition causes symptoms almost all of the time and takes a massive toll on anyone suffering from its effects. The common co-occurrence of OCD with the abuse of benzodiazepines, cocaine, amphetamines (including Ritalin), and opiates makes our professionals approach the patient with a dual diagnosis and asses the co-occurring conditions simultaneously. 

A dual-diagnosis of OCD and alcoholism or drug addiction is difficult to diagnose. So, it is hard for people living with this mental illness to find effective treatment options early on. Many don’t realize they are suffering from more than one disease. Others do not want to admit they have these obsessions or compulsions. Even with the disorder, many of them are successful professionals. The earlier a person receives treatment, the quicker and easier the recovery will be. However, treatment at any time can result in effective rehabilitation. Our psychiatric referrals and clinical teams take the length of addiction/OCD, personal history, and family history into account when organizing a treatment plan. 

Options for OCD and Addiction Treatment

Treatment for a dual diagnosis of OCD and addiction should have a combination of treatments directed at addressing both the mental and physical effects of both conditions. The treatment process will look different for each case. But common options for treatment typically include: 

  • Detox
  • Depression/Anxiety medications
  • Talk Therapy (CBT, ACT therapy)
  • Nutritional Therapy
  • Meditation & Yoga
  • Behavioral Modification Therapy
  • Relapse Prevention 

OCD medications are not always used, especially if there is a concern for further addiction, but for some, they prove to be a beneficial addition in a treatment plan.

Counseling sessions with a psychiatrist or therapist will help address both your mental illness and substance addiction, and aid in discovering the root causes of their development. Unresolved childhood trauma, insecurities, genetics, and effects from past experiences can be a major factor in the development of both conditions. Talking with a professional will enable you to learn how to accept and let go of whatever experiences are triggering your OCD and addiction.  

Holistic approaches are a great addition to dealing with addiction and OCD as they can address the emotional root of the disorder. To fully heal, you have to understand why the addiction/ OCD formed in the first place. Acupuncture, meditation, and creative therapies can all help patients understand themselves and their triggers. 

Medication for OCD and Addiction

If the medication route is decided, our medical professionals will do a full evaluation to decipher which options would be best for patients’ individual needs. Switching or adding medications often helps a client who is not responding well or who have developed distressing side effects with a previous medication.

Since medications for OCD can take a while before they start working, using it along with evidence-based therapy options is vital. This is the stage of recovery where the client and family – if they have not already done so – familiarize themselves with all aspects of the illness. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief.

Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. During stabilization, the staff works to educate families and encourages them to find out as much about the illness as possible.

Treatment at Northbound 

Northbound Treatment Services believes knowledge is power and insight gives everyone a much better chance of developing good coping strategies for dealing with addiction. Families and clients gain insight into the person’s feeling of over-acute senses, such as being irritated by the smallest noises. They learn about the recurrent episodes of exuberant energy. 

Sometimes sleeping patterns change drastically: a person will shift into sleeping during the day and staying up all night. There are many types of obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Overtime our patients are taught that their symptoms are merely a learned emotional reaction. They learn how to manage these symptoms using healthier responses. Our staff and housing units create a comfortable and safe atmosphere where our patients feel able to express their worries without acting on their compulsions. 

The goal is to stabilize emotions and compulsions. Stabilization also includes sleep hygiene and nutritional guidance because weight gain or loss is a common characteristic of the disorder. Working closely with the clinical staff, clients experience daily improvement at Northbound.

Northbound Treatment Services recognizes the most effective treatment for OCD is a combination of medication and psychosocial intervention. Our healthcare professionals know that for the same reasons talk therapy won’t stop cancer from spreading, OCD demands appropriate attention. During this phase of recovery, the focus is on gaining insight into the destructive attitudes and behaviors that hinder treatment. The goal is to begin controlling the symptoms, reduce isolation, and increase social connections so therapeutic paths can begin to help.

Get Help Today for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at Northbound

OCD and Addiction may feel like it’s taking over your whole life, but it doesn’t have too. Northbound strives to give you the choice to take your life back into your own hands. 

Northbound offers fully integrated treatment that concurrently treats addiction and co-occurring disorders. We strive to help our clients live their lives to the fullest. Whether you know what treatment you need, want to refer a loved one, or are curious as to how we could help you live a happy and stable life, we are passionate and ready to help you in any way we can. Regain control of your life and pursue your goals through our OCD and Addiction treatment center in Orange County. For information about our treatment options please call us at (866) 511-2458. You can also contact us here.







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