OCD and Addiction

Authored by Jane Squires

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Dr Ruth Arenas Matta

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OCD and Addiction

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an all-consuming feeling that overtakes a person’s life.1Sachs, Gabriele, and Andreas Erfurth. “Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders: From the Biological Basis to a Rational Pharmacological Treatment | International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, 1 Jan. 2018, academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/21/1/59/4565843. It affects a person’s day and completely interferes with the life they have – or want to have. OCD affects an individual’s daily routines and responsibilities. Films and television have depicted persons suffering from OCD with it often being portrayed as humorous. Television characters such as Adrian Monk (Monk) or Monica Geller (Friends) have OCD in comical ways in which they must do activities multiple times. These conditions make it appear that OCD is a condition that shouldn’t be taken seriously. The truth is, OCD controls a person’s life and traps them in what feels like a prison of compulsion.2Fornaro, Michele, et al. “Obsessive-compulsive Disorder and Related Disorders: A Comprehensive Survey – Annals of General Psychiatry.” BioMed Central, 18 May 2009, annals-general-psychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-859X-8-13.

The time-consuming routines OCD sufferers go through each day lead to issues with employment, school, and home life. OCD can lead individuals to be unemployed, socially isolated, and to fail academically.3Lack, Caleb W. “Obsessive-compulsive Disorder: Evidence-based Treatments and Future Directions for Research – PMC.” PubMed Central (PMC), 22 Dec. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3782190. OCD can lead to persons finding ways to self-medicate to overcome their issues and to feel more “normal”.

How does OCD and Addiction combine?

OCD sufferers may feel anxiety, depression, and tension from within. In a journey to find help, sufferers may turn to drugs and alcohol. Although drugs and alcohol seem to help initially, they only cause the symptoms to worsen.

Research has found a large portion of OCD sufferers also meet the criteria for individuals living with substance misuse disorder.4Mancebo, Maria C., et al. “Substance Use Disorders in an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinical Sample – PMC.” PubMed Central (PMC), 6 Sept. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2705178. Many of the individuals that deal with OCD and addiction started using drugs and alcohol to combat their OCD symptoms. Research also found that people that experienced OCD in adolescence or as teenagers developed worse substance misuse issues later in life. These individuals experienced isolation and childhood emotional neglect early on in life creating psychological distress and crippling anxiety.

What causes addiction in OCD sufferers?

Social isolation is a major factor in the creation of addiction in individuals with OCD. The compulsion to do routines over and over again leads many people to consider a sufferer to be different and strange. It leads the sufferer to be isolated from friends, families and acquaintances. OCD can leave a person housebound due to the compulsions that exist in them.

Isolation can lead to depression which in turn leads to persons using and abusing drugs and/or alcohol. Sufferers can experience a cycle of isolation, drug and/or alcohol abuse, and depression. Other mental health disorders can develop such as anxiety. Drug and alcohol abuse can even lead to further OCD. Unfortunately, addiction and OCD can increase and lead to hospitalization, eating disorder and/or destructive behavior.

Getting help for OCD and Addiction

OCD affects a small percentage of people. It is estimated that as much as 2.2% of the population is affected by OCD in a given year.5NIMH. “NIMH » Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd. Accessed 12 Oct. 2022. Although OCD isn’t common compared to other psychiatric disorders, it is an all-consuming condition that has serious implications on a person’s life. The combination of OCD and addition only make a person’s life more difficult.

Medical professionals can now help OCD and addiction sufferers more than ever before.6Schneider, Jennifer P. “Browse Journals by Subject.” Browse Journals by Subject, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1081/JA-100108428?scroll=top&needAccess=true&journalCode=isum20. Accessed 12 Oct. 2022. There is a range of medical resources that give specialists the ability to help patients.7Smith, P., et al. “Compulsivity and Probabilistic Reversal Learning in OCD and Cocaine Addiction | Semantic Scholar.” Compulsivity and Probabilistic Reversal Learning in OCD and Cocaine Addiction | Semantic Scholar, 1 Jan. 2018, www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Compulsivity-and-probabilistic-reversal-learning-in-Smith-Benzina/3ae46b47d433f38939d014125a081abd11bff81c. Unfortunately, OCD sufferers often do not realize there is help available to them. They may live for years with both OCD and addiction problems before getting the help they need.

 

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  • 1
    Sachs, Gabriele, and Andreas Erfurth. “Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders: From the Biological Basis to a Rational Pharmacological Treatment | International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, 1 Jan. 2018, academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/21/1/59/4565843.
  • 2
    Fornaro, Michele, et al. “Obsessive-compulsive Disorder and Related Disorders: A Comprehensive Survey – Annals of General Psychiatry.” BioMed Central, 18 May 2009, annals-general-psychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-859X-8-13.
  • 3
    Lack, Caleb W. “Obsessive-compulsive Disorder: Evidence-based Treatments and Future Directions for Research – PMC.” PubMed Central (PMC), 22 Dec. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3782190.
  • 4
    Mancebo, Maria C., et al. “Substance Use Disorders in an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinical Sample – PMC.” PubMed Central (PMC), 6 Sept. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2705178.
  • 5
    NIMH. “NIMH » Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd. Accessed 12 Oct. 2022.
  • 6
    Schneider, Jennifer P. “Browse Journals by Subject.” Browse Journals by Subject, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1081/JA-100108428?scroll=top&needAccess=true&journalCode=isum20. Accessed 12 Oct. 2022.
  • 7
    Smith, P., et al. “Compulsivity and Probabilistic Reversal Learning in OCD and Cocaine Addiction | Semantic Scholar.” Compulsivity and Probabilistic Reversal Learning in OCD and Cocaine Addiction | Semantic Scholar, 1 Jan. 2018, www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Compulsivity-and-probabilistic-reversal-learning-in-Smith-Benzina/3ae46b47d433f38939d014125a081abd11bff81c.
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