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Why Do People Struggle with OCD and Addiction at the Same Time?

woman with red lipstick and black mascara, ocd and addiction

Imagine it’s the middle of the night and you’ve been caught in a spiral of intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. You’re feeling completely out of control. Your heart is thudding, and anxiety is taking hold when all you want to feel are the calming effects of substances or certain behaviors. If this is something you wake up to every morning or something you battle through in the stillness of your night, then you might wonder if there is ever a way out of this tangle of OCD and addiction. OCD and addiction might be keeping you tethered to things that have an iron grip on your thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviors. But, through the proper support, you can find your way with the help of Integrative Life Center. Let’s take a look at the connection between OCD and addiction to give you some insight into what these two co-occurring disorders are, what they might look like in your life, and discover some pathways toward healing.

What is OCD? 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. With OCD, individuals have uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions), which are then used to alleviate their anxiety.

Individuals with OCD experience intrusive, unwanted, and often distressing thoughts, images, or urges that they cannot control. These thoughts can be about many things, including contamination, symmetry, harm, or morality. The intensity and frequency of these obsessions can vary from person to person.

To cope with their anxiety, individuals with OCD may engage in repetitive and time-consuming behaviors, such as checking, cleaning, or counting. These compulsive behaviors can provide temporary relief from anxiety but often lead to further distress and interfere with daily activities and relationships. 

OCD can be a challenging disorder to live with, but hope still exists! OCD is a treatable condition. Therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

What is Addiction? 

Addiction is a complex disorder that involves compulsive drug or alcohol use despite the harmful consequences it can cause. With addiction, a person may experience intense cravings and loss of control over drug use. Addiction is when someone continues to use a substance despite negative consequences, such as health problems, relationship issues, and financial difficulties. 

Addiction can also lead to changes in the brain that can affect a person’s judgment, decision-making, and ability to resist cravings. It’s important to recognize that addiction is not a moral failing or a lack of willpower, but rather a disorder that requires professional help. Addiction and substance abuse treatment may involve a combination of therapy, trauma informed care, medication, and support groups. Recovery is possible, but it often requires ongoing effort and a commitment to positive changes in one’s life. It’s important for individuals struggling with addiction to seek help and support from loved ones and healthcare professionals.

Connection Between OCD and Addiction

Although addiction and OCD may seem like distinct disorders, they often coexist and can feed off each other. For example, someone with OCD may develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their anxiety and distress. In the same way, someone with an addiction may develop OCD-like behaviors, such as compulsive drug use or rituals around drug use.

This co-occurrence of addiction and OCD can create a vicious cycle of self-destructive behaviors, where compulsive drug use worsens the symptoms of OCD, and the OCD symptoms increase the risk of drug use. It is important to address both disorders in treatment to break this cycle and promote long-term recovery. 

Genetic Predisposition and Brain Chemistry

Genetic factors play a significant role in increasing the likelihood of individuals developing both OCD and substance abuse. Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, are frequently associated with the onset of these disorders. Certain genetic variations may raise the susceptibility to both OCD and substance abuse, indicating the need for personalized treatment approaches. At ILC, this can include the use of experiential modalities such as: 

Identifying Coping Mechanisms and Triggers

Recognizing unhealthy coping mechanisms and identifying triggers are crucial steps in breaking the cycle of OCD and addiction. Here are some common signs of unhealthy coping mechanisms in individuals with OCD:

  • Excessive cleaning or hand washing
  • Repeatedly checking things
  • Arranging objects in a particular way
  • Constantly seeking reassurance from others

While these behaviors may provide temporary relief from OCD symptoms, they can ultimately worsen underlying issues and trigger addictive behaviors. If you recognize these signs in yourself or a loved one, it may be time to seek help and support. You can identify triggers to break the cycle of OCD and substance abuse.

Holistic Treatment Approaches at Integrative Life Center

We believe in treating individuals as a whole – addressing their mind, body, and spirit – during the process of healing. Our holistic treatment is based on combining evidence-based therapies with experiential modalities to tackle the underlying causes of addiction and OCD. We offer a comprehensive range of services specifically tailored to each individual’s unique needs, ranging from a personalized treatment plan for substance abuse, individual counseling and group therapy to mindfulness practices and adventure therapy. Our therapies include: 

Healing from Addiction at ILC in Nashville, TN 

If you’re struggling with both OCD and addiction, it’s important to know that there is hope for a better future. ILC is here to support you on your journey towards healing. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing compassionate care and evidence-based treatments to help you overcome these debilitating disorders. You deserve a life filled with purpose, joy, and fulfillment, and we’re here to help you achieve it. To take the first step towards a brighter future, give us a call at (615) 891-2226 and take a look at our personality disorder treatment page. Together, we can start a new chapter of healing and transformation in your life.

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First Name*
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By checking this box you are providing your expressed written consent and willingness for ILC to call you. We will never share your information.
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By clicking this box you are providing expressed written consent to have ILC contact you via SMS messages 2-4/mo, or in varying amounts. We never share your information. Standard message and data rates apply. Text Opt-Out to be removed at any time.

This is an invitation to take that next step if you need...