Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often mistaken as an exaggeration of a person’s behavior. OCD, however, is an unsettling manifestation of obsessions and compulsions that result in unwanted and repetitive behavioral patterns. These obsessive and compulsive thoughts and actions do not allow the sufferer to maintain a normal, healthy routine, leading to a plethora of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and even, suicidal tendencies. A lot of times, people struggling with OCD turn to drugs to escape from the pain and embarrassment of OCD, only to worsen their existing symptoms.
People with OCD are inclined to abuse alcohol and drugs
OCD patients are at a higher risk of developing substance use disorder. Many theories have been developed to explain this association, which include:
- OCD victims struggle with overpowering compulsions and inner torment and when they fail to get any help for the underlying psychological distress, they resort to self-medicating, which is often short-term.
- The onset of OCD manifests at around 18-20 years of age and interestingly, it is the age when most of the young adults perceive themselves as adults and try to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
- Because of their serious compulsions, people with OCD end up as loners and feel isolated. This triggers their vulnerability to use alcohol and drugs, which gradually develops into an addiction.
OCD is a mental illness which may develop alongside a drug addiction. Since the symptoms of both the disorders overlap, there is often a co-occurrence of both in an individual. Precisely, an OCD sufferer often depends on drugs to seek symptomatic relief from the compulsions. However, substance abuse worsens the symptoms, making OCD a very difficult disorder to treat.
Identifying link between substance abuse and OCD
An individual grappling with substance abuse can also develop OCD tendencies such as, compulsively counting pills or injections every now and then, or obsessively getting anxious about their next fix, in addition to numerous other destructive behavioral patterns.
It has been found that parts of the brain linked to substance abuse are also linked with OCD. OCD causes acute anxiety and compulsive acts which may lead to drug or alcohol addiction or may aggravate the already existing addiction. Teens battling with OCD are more susceptible to substance abuse since they may lack coping mechanisms which adults usually develop, over a period of time.
Alcohol acts as a depressant, therefore, individuals struggling with OCD often resort to alcohol to lessen the anxiety and intensity associated with the disorder.
Treating OCD and addiction simultaneously
The treatment goal should be to manage OCD and addiction, simultaneously. Antidepressants are the mainstay of medical therapy in the OCD patients. These drugs affect the brain chemistry by working on the abnormal levels of serotonin, which is a brain chemical. Most commonly used drugs are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRTIs) but medicated interventions does not suffice solely. Therefore, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be incorporated into the treatment plan to help dual diagnosis patients cope with the compulsive thought processes and train the mind to stay away from the addiction-inducing substances.
Road to recovery
Both mental health problems and substance abuse are equally debilitating. A combination of medicines and psychotherapy aimed at curing both OCD and substance abuse together is imperative for recovery.
If you or someone in your family is struggling with dual diagnosis and needs professional help, get in touch with the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline to know about the best dual diagnosis treatment centers in California. Chat online or call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 to speak with a representative and get referred to the best dual diagnosis treatment programs in California.