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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder And Addiction

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 26, 2019

Most often OCD begins at childhood or teenage years, with most people diagnosed by the age of 19. Nearly 2.2 million American adults or an estimated 1.2 percent in the United States suffer from OCD in a 12-month period. Why these individuals end up with OCD is a mystery, however, there is evidence that it is passed down in families, and may be because of environmental reasons like a traumatic childhood event or maltreatment.

When people think of OCD, they often think of Sheldon from the TV show Big Bang Theory. The compulsive disorders, the rituals (knocking three times), and the habitual living issues (his spot on the couch). While a fictitious show, the Big Bang Theory has the disorder pegged.

When a person suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it is defined as having the presence of persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are intrusive and unwanted (obsessions), or repetitive and ritualistic behaviors that a person feels are necessary in order to control obsessions (compulsions). These obsessions are not a choice to the individual, suffering from OCD, rather in his own mind, it feels like something the individual has to complete in order to relieve the pressure inside of them.

Understanding Obsessions

An obsession may be a cycle of the same thoughts, images, or urges and are known to be troublesome and involuntary. A compulsion is a behavior on repeat, and the person is mentally pushed to carry out this ritual in coordination with an obsession or a strict set of rules created in his own mind. These ritualistic behaviors are done as an effort to avoid or tone down anxiety or distress, and yet are extremely overly obsessive and not in tune with reality.

While those who don’t suffer with OCD can avert these types of thoughts, the OCD sufferer feels controlled to do complete tasks to relieve the pressure in his/her own mind. These types of behaviors take time and cause many dysfunctional factors in day-to-day life.

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Nearly one in five adults have a mental disorder that could be diagnosed. These mental illnesses are much more common than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Mental illness can strike any age, income, race, religion, or culture and affects both males and females. Many times mental illness creeps up in adolescence or young adulthood. For the most part, the young or the elderly are susceptible to these issues.

Four out of the 10 reasons for disability (productive life lost) in the United States and other places are from mental disorders. Some of these include: major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Many people are facing not just one, but several mental disorders at the same time. With the right treatment, 70 to 90 percent of people suffering from mental illness will gain an improved quality of life. Two thirds of Americans, who suffer from a mental illness, still live productive lives in their communities.

How Are Those Who Suffer From OCD More Prone To Addiction?

Having one disorder raises a greater risk for many other disorders in the individual. In a study, “The relationship between anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorders: a review of major perspectives and findings,” from Clinical Psychology Review, which approached the subject of alcohol use disorders and anxiety disorders, came to realize that anxiety disorders and alcohol abuse went hand in hand with one another.

Having either an anxiety disorder or a substance use disorder increases chances of developing the other, as well as feeding the fire of either the anxiety or the SUD symptoms. Understanding how these two affect each other is also relevant when the person is suffering from OCD. Evidence has been found that when consuming certain substances (like cocaine or methamphetamine), it will aggravate OCD symptoms. Not only that, but others, such as opiates, may dull OCD symptoms.

Those studied who suffered from OCD (15 years of age or younger) were also associated with a lifetime of alcohol use disorders. Because of the tendencies of OCD individuals, treatment may take longer and require extra care in order to get them back on track.

Addictions Of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

A person suffering from OCD is more prone to addiction, and when exposed to such an addiction, the results can be highly catastrophic. An addiction is described as an activity which requires more and more attention. The OCD person usually develops daily rituals, so they are easier addicted to specific activities, which they can build upon with an increased amount of time.

Many times a cycle of guilt can be created, but an OCD person may dive deeper into their addiction to ease the guilt. The pattern continues when those who suffer from OCD dabble in the use of other substances, trying to ease their OCD while becoming increasingly addicted to the substance they have consumed.

If you, a friend, or a family member is suffering from OCD linked with addiction, reach out and contact us today at With time and care, you can begin to heal and build a new and sober life while finding relief from OCD.

Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration - Mental Disorders

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Substance Use Disorders In An Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinical Sample

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