There are many reasons that might drive a person to begin using substances such as alcohol or drugs. However, one of these most common reasons is having a mental health condition. What’s interesting is that most people don’t know that they have a mental health condition. What they do know is that they have experiences that are hard for them. They have anxiety that feels unbearable or depression that’s driving them to suicide. When you’re in the midst of inner challenges, it often doesn’t occur to you that you have a mental illness. Instead, you’re focused on how to manage it all.
And the same is true for anyone who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This is an illness in which you begin to obsess about a particular fear, and in turn, the obsession drives you to act in compulsive ways. For instance, someone who is afraid of strangers breaking into their home might compulsively lock their door five to ten times each time they arrive home. Or someone who is obsessed about germs on their hands might compulsively wash their hands. Whether the fear is conscious or not, OCD is rooted in anxiety and fear. And when that anxiety gets to be too much, a person might turn to alcohol or drugs in order to cope.
According to the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, approximately, 25% of those who seek OCD treatment also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. In fact, research shows that those who have been facing OCD since childhood or adolescence are at a greater risk for developing an addiction later in their lives. It’s important to know that anyone who has an addiction as well as OCD won’t effectively heal the addiction unless they also receive OCD treatment. Getting addiction treatment without getting OCD treatment will essentially be a waste of time, energy, and money. Both illnesses need to be treatment simultaneously. If the primary reason you turned to substance use was to manage your OCD, then OCD treatment will help ease your road to recovery.
Addiction, depression, and other anxiety disorders commonly accompany OCD. Typically, treatment for OCD includes medication to help manage the anxiety as well as therapy. Psychotherapy can be useful in a variety of ways. First, therapy can address the irrational fears that a person with OCD tends to have. Since these fears are the root of their compulsive behavior, addressing them can assist with both their OCD behaviors as well as the compulsivity that can come with addiction. The illness of addiction is also a compulsive one where a person compulsively uses substances despite the negative consequences it is having on their lives. Secondly, therapy might also help a person learn new coping tools when faced with high levels of anxiety or fear. This can help prevent substance use as well as break the association between compulsive behavior and obsessive fears. OCD treatment is not a quick fix. However, while therapy takes place, a person can take medication that can help ease the anxiety they tend to have.
If you’re in addiction treatment and you also face the challenges of OCD, be sure to include OCD treatment in your recovery.
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