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Why OCD and Drug Abuse Go Together

girl organizing pencils who struggles with ocd and drug abuse

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and drug addiction go hand-in-hand like many other co-occurring disorders. Treatment for each disorder depends on the other. Therefore, rehabilitation centers must resolve both through proper management and therapy.

What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Either substance abuse or mental illness can develop first. A person experiencing a mental health condition may turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to improve the troubling mental health symptoms they experience. Research shows that drugs and alcohol only make the symptoms of mental health conditions worse. Abusing substances can also lead to mental health problems because of the effects drugs have on a person’s moods, thoughts, brain chemistry, and behavior.” Obsessive-compulsive disorder is another one of these co-occurring disorders that complicate drug and alcohol addiction. Other common dual diagnoses with drug addiction:

The Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder does require a doctor’s diagnosis. As the name implies, it includes both obsessions and compulsions, but a person can have one condition emphasized. As more studies are conducted on OCD, it’s beginning to take on a different definition and approached in a new way. Many now understand OCD to consist of repetitive and distressing obsession and compulsion, which tend to increase in severity the longer the condition goes untreated.

Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:

  • Fear of germs or contamination
  • Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, and harm
  • Aggressive thoughts towards others or self
  • Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to respond to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive cleaning or handwashing
  • Ordering and arranging things in a precise way
  • Repeatedly checking on things, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or that the oven is off
  • Compulsive counting

OCD and Addiction Are Treatable Together

Due to the mental and emotional (and sometimes physical) distress caused by the obsessive-compulsive disorder, those diagnosed can turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. It can be extremely draining to deal with the symptoms of OCD. Although some medications do exist for symptoms, they are not always easy to obtain or suffer some from some side effects. These medications include serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

The rehabilitation center you choose should focus on the dual treatment of your addiction and OCD. That means not just depending on a medication to reduce the obsessive-compulsive symptoms. There are other ways to treat these co-occurring disorders, and the goal is to find a treatment center that addresses the complexity of your diseases. Some key principles form the basis of effective treatment:

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
  • No single treatment is right for everyone.
  • People need to have quick access to treatment.
  • Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just their drug use.
  • Staying in treatment long enough is critical.
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment.
  • Medications are often an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.
  • Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
  • Treatment should address other possible mental disorders.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment.
  • Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously.
  • Treatment programs should test patients for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as teach them about steps they can take to reduce their risk of these illnesses.”

Discover How Northpoint Seattle Can Help

Dealing with drug addiction and OCD is one of the hardest things a person will go through in their life. These two diseases work together to create a situation that many people find themselves stuck in. It affects their family, work, school, and health. At Northpoint Seattle, we prefer to view these obstacles as opportunities to become better, happier members of society. Besides typical detox and therapies that help transform negative drug habits, we help patients learn and adopt habits that increase their sense of well-being:

  • Eating right – Diet is an important aspect. If you were doing drugs or suffering from anxiety, it might be the case that you used food in an unhealthy way – be it eating too much or too little. We serve food in our facility that helps you get back into shape, and we have resources that help you make good food choices once you return home.
  • Exercising – Enjoying everything your body can do for you begins immediately. Under medical supervision, you will participate in exercises that get you moving and feeling amazing. When you return home, we will encourage you to manage your health through regular exercise.
  • Learning to have fun without drugs or alcohol – There are many things to do that don’t involve drug or alcohol use. We work with you to identify situations that don’t trigger your addiction or OCD to find fun activities you can do without worry of relapse.
  • Socializing – Socializing can be a trigger for both substance abuse and OCD. We help you learn that social interactions don’t need to rely on drug use or obsessive behaviors through group support.

Learn more about what Northpoint Seattle can do to get you sober and healthy again by calling 425.414.3530.