Dual Diagnosis Treatment for OCD & Addiction

It’s not uncommon for people that suffer from substance addictions to also suffer from mental illnesses. This is because substances cause chemical changes to the brain. These chemical changes often cause people to experience symptoms that are very similar to many mental health disorders.

Also, people that suffer from mental illnesses often start using substances to cope with their disorders. Thus, mental illness and addiction often correlate with one another. One mental health disorder in particular that often correlates with substance addiction is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). To overcome OCD and addiction, individuals should attend professional dual diagnosis treatment.

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What is an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is one of the many types of anxiety disorders that a person can develop. OCD causes people to experience recurrent unwanted thoughts and/or actions. Oftentimes these recurrent and unwanted thoughts or actions are motivated by fear.

For example, a person that suffers from OCD may experience an irrational fear of germs. This irrational fear may cause that person to repeatedly wash his or her hands an obsessive amount of times. Constantly experiencing such obsessive thoughts and behaviors takes up the time and energy of people with OCD.

Causes of OCD

The exact cause of OCD is unknown. Still, many researchers believe that OCD is linked to genetics and imbalances in people’s neurochemistry.

Many researchers also believe that structural abnormalities in the frontal lobes and basal ganglia of the brain can cause OCD. Some researchers even think that environmental toxins could help cause people to develop OCD.

Imbalances in Neurochemistry

Researchers that believe that imbalances in a person’s neurochemistry can lead to the development of OCD include those of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Researchers from the NAMI believe this because imbalances in the neurotransmitter serotonin are associated with many of the behaviors and thought processes of OCD.

Structural Abnormalities in the Brain

Other researchers think that structural abnormalities in the frontal lobes and basal ganglia of the brain could cause OCD. This is because such abnormalities could lead to changes in one’s cognition and sense of movement. Such changes could then lead to the display of repetitive thoughts and behaviors.


OCD often runs in families. Thus, it’s a common belief that genetics is part of the reason why people develop OCD.

Childhood Illness and Environmental Toxins

Although there’s no evidence of this, some people even theorize that childhood illness or exposure to environmental toxins could cause people to develop OCD. Ultimately though, OCD is probably caused due to a combination of biological and environmental factors.

Signs and Symptoms of OCD

There are many signs and symptoms that indicate that a person may suffer from OCD. The signs and symptoms of OCD can vary, though, depending on the type of irrational fears and obsessive behaviors that a person with OCD exhibits.

OCD is separated into the two categories of obsessions and compulsions. Therefore, all of the signs and symptoms of OCD fit into one of these two categories.

Common signs and symptoms of OCD obsessions include:

  • Fear of germs and getting sick
  • Obsessions over numbers and what they mean
  • Intrusive thoughts of committing self-harm
  • Obsession with religion and blasphemous talk
  • Intrusive thoughts of sexual images
  • Losing a loved one to injury or illness

Common signs and symptoms of OCD compulsions include:

  • Excessive washing of hands and cleaning
  • Excessive praying due to religious fear
  • Obsessively double-checking aspects of homes and buildings such as light switches
  • Counting or repeating words, or tapping things to soothe anxiety
  • Repeatedly checking in on the safety of loved ones
  • Hoarding useless items or trash

Facts About OCD

According to Stanford University, approximately only 0.8-2.2% of the population develops OCD each year. This percentage may not even account for everyone in the U.S. that contains OCD. This is because OCD is stigmatized and often not treated in certain communities.

Thus, the International OCD Foundation as well as the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University estimates that there are approximately 2-3 million adults in the U.S. that are suffering from OCD. Many people that develop OCD start exhibiting OCD symptoms during adolescence or young adulthood.

What It’s Like to Have OCD

While the cause of OCD is unknown, the fact that it often runs in families indicates that genetics may be a factor. Most people with OCD are very much aware that their behaviors are obsessive and irrational. Still, they can’t stop themselves from feeling anxious and exhibiting obsessions and compulsions. As a result, the obsessions and compulsions of a person with OCD can take up extreme amounts of time in a person’s day.

As mentioned earlier, for whatever reason, there are some common obsessions and compulsions that individuals with OCD tend to have. For example, many forms of OCD have to deal with grooming, washing, counting, and organizing.

Why Does OCD Often Lead to Substance Addiction?

Constantly having reoccurring and obsessive thoughts as well as actions often cause people with OCD to be late to events. It also makes it difficult to enjoy places, people, and things. They can even cause people to not be able to upkeep a healthy life routine. As a result, many people with OCD get depressed and down on themselves. To cope with these depressive emotions and obsessive thoughts and behaviors, many people with OCD start using substances.

OCD is the #1 classified anxiety disorder. Thus, the fact that many people with OCD end up abusing substances shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. This is because, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 20% of people with anxiety disorders also suffer from substance use issues. Unfortunately, chronically using substances to cope with OCD often only causes people to develop a dependency on those substances.

OCD and Substance Dependency

Once people develop a dependence on substances, they start to experience withdrawal symptoms whenever they minimize or discontinue their use of those substances. As a result, individuals that abuse substances while suffering from OCD often end up developing full-fledged substance addictions that cause chemical changes to their brains.

These chemical changes in the brain then often cause many of the symptoms of OCD to worsen. This is ultimately the opposite of what people with OCD intended when they started using substances to cope with their conditions.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment of OCD and Addiction

Individuals that suffer from OCD and addiction at the same time must attend dual diagnosis treatment to overcome their conditions. Dual diagnosis treatment is when two different types of co-occurring disorders are treated simultaneously.

It’s important that individuals with OCD and addiction receive dual diagnosis treatment rather than treat each condition individually. This is because OCD and addiction impact one another. Thus, OCD and addiction can trigger the reappearance of one another.

Why Dual Diagnosis Treat is Crucial to Recovery

If a person treats his or her addiction and leaves his or her OCD to be treated later, the lingering OCD will likely just cause the person to crave substances again to cope. This will then increase the chances of that person relapsing.

Similarly, if a person chooses to treat his or her OCD prior to treating a co-occurring substance addiction, the continuing chemical changes that the substance use will cause on that person’s brain will only re-trigger the person’s OCD. Thus, the only effective way for a person with both OCD and addiction to treat both conditions is simultaneously through dual diagnosis treatment.

Individuals that attend dual diagnosis treatment receive different forms of therapy that help them both learn coping mechanisms to manage their addiction triggers and ways to manage their OCD. People in dual diagnosis treatment for OCD and addiction may also receive medication to help them manage the symptoms of one or both of their disorders.

To learn more about Grace Land Recovery and all the ways that we can help you overcome your dual diagnosis disorder, contact us today. Our phone lines are open 24/7. To visit us in person, you can come to our treatment center during our office hours, Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm.

Receive Dual Diagnosis Treatment for OCD and Addiction At Grace Land Recovery

The best place to receive dual diagnosis treatment is a dual diagnosis treatment center, such as Grace Land Recovery. Grace Land Recovery is a premier dual diagnosis treatment center located in the Memphis, Tennessee area. As a dual diagnosis treatment center, we here at Grace Land Recovery know all of the most effective ways to treat co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders such as OCD and addiction.

Some of the forms of therapy that we incorporate into our dual diagnosis treatment programs include cognitive-behavioral therapy, experiential therapy, and rational emotive therapy. We also make sure to provide treatment services to our patients that help treat their minds, bodies, and souls of their mental health and substance use disorders.

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Our mission is to help individuals achieve sobriety by getting to the root of their addiction issues. We also aim to treat the minds, bodies, and souls of our patients.

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