The terms “obsessive” and “obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)” are frequently used casually. For those suffering from OCD, there is nothing casual about the topic, and it is rarely, if ever, humorous. In fact, obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcoholism frequently go together as sufferers attempt to deal with the problems their condition creates. OCD and alcoholism or OCD and substance abuse are real problems for many people and sufferers may not realize they are even connected.
Genuine OCD is often a near crippling condition. OCD is a psychological disorder involving thoughts, feelings, or impulses that feel outside the person’s ability to control and can only be relieved by engaging in repetitive, compulsive rituals that relieve the intense fear and anxiety that accompany these obsessive thoughts. While those rituals can provide temporary relief, the anxiety soon returns.
Anxiety And OCD
Anxiety is a large part of the obsessions that drive those afflicted with OCD. In those not suffering from OCD, a source of anxiety may arise for a short time and then fade because no trouble materializes. Anxiety can spring from many sources, such as fears about catching a disease, fear of losing a job or important relationship, or fears that a task is not performed well enough. For those suffering from OCD, the thoughts and anxieties arising from such concerns are near constant companions and can only be dealt with temporarily by performing the compulsive rituals the disorder demands.
For those who do not suffer from OCD, a quick attempt to deal with the source of anxiety may suffice. If you fear catching a disease, a quick handwashing may alleviate your concern. A quick check may assure you that a job was done properly, or a brief conversation may alleviate any fear of losing a valued relationship or job.
Life is much more complicated for those with OCD. A brief handwashing is not enough to soothe the anxiety, and, in fact, must be performed in an exacting way or may need to be repeated. Likewise, a person with OCD may face crippling anxiety if a task is not performed in an exact manner each and every time. Failure to follow any part of the compulsion fails to relieve the anxiety and may even add to it.
OCD And Substance Abuse
The evidence is clear that there is a link between OCD and substance abuse. Anxiety is a common trigger for substance abuse, especially alcoholism. It should come as no surprise, then, that alcoholism is frequently associated with an anxiety-related disorder such as OCD. In fact, it is estimated that more than 25 percent of those who suffer from OCD also have a problem with alcoholism or other substance abuse.
The anxiety associated with OCD can be severe, prompting patients to seek relief in the form of alcohol or other substances. Unfortunately, this offers only temporary relief, so sufferers are prone to seek more and more alcohol or drugs to dull the anxiety. It does not take long for this cycle to result in alcohol or substance dependence.
Alcohol and most substances people turn to for anxiety are depressives. These substances tend to depress the body’s reactions and can alter moods. Despite the temporary relief users may gain from the anxiety they face, continued abuse of alcohol or other substances will often become a source of anxiety itself, further worsening the patient’s condition.
Alcohol Abuse Is No Coincidence For OCD Patients
Substance abuse and OCD often feed on each other, making each condition worse. The longer one goes without treatment for these conditions, the worse one is likely to feel. Neither alcohol nor other abused substances can provide genuine, lasting relief from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Because OCD and the anxiety created by the disorder often drive patients to substance abuse, they cannot be treated as separate conditions. OCD and alcohol abuse are co-occurring disorders and together they create a spiraling cycle of dependence and anxiety that worsens as they continue.
Treating The Whole Person: Addiction and OCD Treatment
Attempting to overcome substance abuse without addressing the underlying causes is almost certainly doomed to fail. An effective treatment program must address both your alcohol or substance abuse problems and your obsessive-compulsive disorder at the same time. By dealing with both issues, you address not only the symptoms of your problem but also the root causes that led to your dependence in the first place.
Merely treating your OCD while ignoring your alcohol abuse is likely to undermine your treatment and expose you to greater risk of worsening your disorder over time. Alcohol and other abused substances often interfere with medication designed to help relieve your obsessive-compulsive disorder. This not only may reduce the effectiveness of your treatment, it may lead patients to give up and believe there is no escape from the anxiety of their disorder.
While it may seem like tackling both issues at the same time would be more complex, in reality, the problem is often simplified and made more manageable.
Finding Long-Term Relief
Many people suffer from OCD for years before realizing they have a problem or seeking treatment. However, once treatment has begun, it can be easier to look back and see just how much OCD and substance abuse had taken over their lives. Finding real solutions to both the alcohol or substance abuse problem and the OCD can bring a refreshing change to your life and a new perspective going forward.
Common therapies for treating OCD and alcohol abuse include:
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Motivational enhancement therapy
These treatments are all effective for dealing with dual diagnoses or co-occurring disorders. In many cases, with treatment for OCD, you may find greater relief than you have ever experienced. While there is no cure for substance addiction, with the link between OCD and addiction, treatment for OCD can often provide the ability to successfully manage substance abuse. OCD and addiction treatment can provide the necessary relief of anxiety sufferers require to successfully manage their lives.
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