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