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OCDWhat is OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-related mental disorder that involves compulsive actions and intrusive thoughts. People with OCD may carry out repeated, unnecessary activities such as washing their hands, counting items, checking locks, or rearranging things continuously in order to avoid feelings of anxiousness. OCD can be an incredibly debilitating mental illness if left untreated.

Addiction is another brain disease that impacts millions of people around the world each day. In some, OCD and addiction can exist simultaneously, though one tends to be the root cause of the other. Obsessive compulsive disorder and addiction are known as co-occurring disorders, and in most cases, they require specialized dual diagnosis treatment plan in order to overcome. While treating OCD and addiction together is difficult, dual diagnosis programs are designed help the addict get back on track and lead a happier, more productive life.

Understanding OCD


To begin to get help, those who suffer from OCD and addiction must truly understand how it affects them. While repetitive impulses are one of the most common symptoms, they are not the only ones patients will experience. The fact is, an obsessive compulsive disorder can create a negative cycle of compulsions and obsessive actions that can ruin a person’s quality of life.

Signs of OCD
  • Obsessive thoughts: Sufferers are often unable to think of anything else for hours on end.
  • Repetitive behavior: Hand washing, cleaning and checking to see if tasks were done right. For example, many people check to see if lights are off, if doors are locked or if the oven was turned off multiple times.
  • General anxiety: Some sufferers feel relief from anxiety after performing certain repetitive tasks or behaviors.
  • Irrational fear: Fear of punishment or something going wrong is common among OCD sufferers. Even something simple like leaving a light on could be grounds for an unknown punishment in the sufferer’s mind.

When paired together, OCD and addiction can be devastating for the person suffering from these two chronic diseases. Many people dealing with these two issues feel like their lives have been consumed by them. In many cases, addiction is a result of people trying to find a way to ease their anxiety. This is common among people who have displayed symptoms of OCD since they were young. Obsessive compulsive disorder can develop among people already suffering from an addiction as well. For these individuals, routines often form around both day-to-day activities and their substance abuse.

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What is a Dual Diagnosis?

When a person that struggles with OCD suffers from addiction, an evaluation will reveal the necessity for dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe the co-existance of a mental health diorserd and a substance abuse disorder. This means that, during treatment, both issues must be addressed simultaneously.

OCD and addiction can occur in numerous ways. While some individuals with OCD may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to ease anxiety and other issues caused by obsessive compulsive disorder, addicts can also develop OCD-like behavior as a result of prolonged substance abuse.

For example, many people who suffer from depression disorder also suffer from anxiety disorders. Individuals struggling with bipolar disorder may be more prone to OCD. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that all (if multiple) mental health issues are accounted for in order for addiction treatment to be a success.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis 

OCD and addiction can be difficult to treat together, but strides have been made in recent years. Individual counseling is often beneficial, as is more focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). When looking for inpatient treatment options, addicts should make sure any facility or doctor they are considering understands the nature of OCD and other co-occurring disorders.

Treatment Goals:

Treatment for OCD and addiction is often effective if the person is motivated to break the cycle of behavior and abuse. Treatment goals vary from program to program, but many facilities share the same general ideals.

  • Treatment should help patients develop a better understanding of their OCD and addiction.
  • Show patients that recovery is possible over time.
  • Offer motivation to help patients break habits that are difficult to control.
  • Help patients understand and control their negative thoughts.

After treatment, many patients are referred to specialized aftercare recovery programs or groups designed to help those dealing with both disorders.

There is no better time than the present to take back control of your life. Explore your options for dual diagnosis treatment and find freedom from addiction.


  1. Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health [PDF]. (2015, September). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Last updated on June 21st, 2017 at 04:34 pm

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