OCD and Addiction: How Do These Relate?

OCD and Addiction: How Do These Relate?

A large number of people who suffer from OCD also find themselves suffering from substance addiction. This can come as a surprise because most people may not relate one form of mental illness with another. However, one mental illness can indeed coexist with other mental illnesses. 

OCD and addiction are similar forms of mental illnesses; they share common symptoms and behaviors. Addiction is the compulsive use of substances, where a person is not able to control their intake. Addiction causes people to continue seeking a substance regardless of the effects it has on their lives. OCD is similar in that people go through compulsive behaviors to help lower anxiety or stress from mentally exhausting obsessive thoughts. According to Dr. Jan Weiner, a licensed Clinical Psychologist from New York City, there are two ways addiction and OCD are related. First, in both mental illnesses, the patient is trying to mitigate some form of emotional pain or anxiety, whether that is through the use of a substance or compulsive behavior. Second, both mental illnesses cause a patient to keep their condition a secret, which may be due to the negative stigma behind addiction and OCD in modern-day society. 

OCD patients are vulnerable to falling prey to addiction because they are in a negative state of mind due to exhausting recurring thoughts. Simple behaviors like having a cup of wine to ease thoughts can, over time, lead to dependency on the substance. Signs of addiction include having withdrawals, panic attacks, and using more and more substances without control. OCD patients can take prescription drugs to lower the volume of their thoughts. Some drugs psychologists prescribe to OCD patients are fluvoxamine, paroxetine, fluoxetine, sertraline, and clomipramine (Juergens, 2020). These medications are effective in treating compulsive thoughts. For instance, the drugs help stop patients from having compulsive thoughts for long periods. However, even though these drugs are effective, they are not instantaneous. There are other forms of medication such as benzodiazepine, klonopin, ativan, and xanax, which give instant relief to patients who suffer from obsessive thoughts. Even though these drugs are instantaneous, they wear off within a few hours. Patients need to consume more instant acting drugs daily to help them relieve their obsessive thoughts. Taking these medications often creates both a dependency and higher tolerance, leading to addiction. 

When treating those with OCD, psychologists prescribe therapy like exposure response therapy, which encourages patients to face their fears.Treating patients with OCD and addiction requires a different approach from treating a person only diagnosed with OCD. With OCD patients who suffer from addiction, the addiction needs to be treated first. Patients must be isolated from their addiction before they can be treated. It is not impossible to have more than one mental illness, and solving each and every one effectively can open the door to better treatment.



Juergens, J. (2020, September 18). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Addiction. Retrieved October 24, 2020, from https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/

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