Studies have shown that those living with OCD are more likely to have a substance use disorder or dual diagnosis. The Journal of Anxiety disorders found in their study that 27% of the adults met the criteria for a substance use disorder. Alcohol came in the highest with 12% being dependent on it. 11% used both drugs and alcohol. Only 3% relied on drugs alone. The participants in this study reported using substances to cope with symptoms of OCD.

It also found that individuals who had obsessive thoughts or behaviors in childhood or early adolescence we’re more likely to suffer from OCD and addiction concurrently. Children and adolescence that displayed symptoms in their early life reported feeling isolated, which contributed to their substance use.

ocd and addiction

OCD and addiction can lead to isolation or depression. Isolation for OCD sufferers is a common side effect due to their obsessions or fear. Mixing OCD and alcohol only further increases their isolation. It also worsens symptoms and anxiety.

Getting help at a dual diagnosis center as soon as you begin to display symptoms is critical. If behaviors or thought patterns are noticed early on, early intervention at an OCD rehab center can potentially mitigate a substance use disorder in the future.

It’s estimated that 1 in 100 adults have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), making it the most common mental illness. Those with OCD can’t control their unwanted thoughts or behaviors. 

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which people suffer from recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations. These thoughts drive them to repeatedly complete an action or behavior. Repetitive behaviors range from cleaning, hand washing, or checking on things and interfere with daily life. The obsessions refer to recurring thoughts, while compulsions refer to the repetitive behavior or action.

Many people may focus their thoughts or follow through with repetitive behaviors. The major difference is that it doesn’t affect their functioning of daily life or it may even add structure or ease to their life. 

Those suffering from OCD have intrusive thoughts and routines that they follow strictly. When they can’t perform these behaviors, they became very distressed. Many OCD patients may know that not completing a ritual won’t harm them or suspect as much. Others have a hard time believing their rituals or thoughts aren’t true. 

Even those that suspect their behaviors and thoughts aren’t true, they have a difficult time stopping their compulsive behaviors or redirecting their thoughts.

What are the Symptoms of OCD?

Those with OCD have symptoms that interfere with their daily life. This includes work, school, and relationships. Some may experience obsessions, compulsions, or both.


Obsessions are repeated unwanted thoughts or mental images that cause anxiety. Some of these include:

  • Having things in perfect order or symmetrical
  • Fear of contamination or germs
  • Unwanted or inappropriate thoughts about sex, religion, or harm
  • Dangerous thoughts about yourself or others
  • Losing control


Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that those with OCD do in response to their obsessive thoughts. Some compulsions include:

  • Counting
  • Repeatedly checking on things (i.e. checking if the door is locked or the oven is turned off)
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Excessive hand washing
  • Arranging things in a certain order or certain way

Rituals or habits aren’t to be confused with compulsions. Almost everyone at some point would double-check if they locked a door or if they turned the oven off after cooking. That’s a conscious decision. Those with compulsions can’t control their behavior or thoughts, even when they recognize it’s excessive. 

Individuals typically spend an hour or more on the behaviors or thoughts. They experience relief and lessened anxiety after performing their ritual. Most importantly, it affects their life having to perform these behaviors or deal with their thoughts.

OCD and Tic Disorder 

Sometimes, people that have OCD may also suffer from a co-occurring disorder called tic disorder. It doesn’t appear in everyone but those that do have it may experience either motor tics or vocal tics. Motor tics are sudden, repetitive movements like eye blinking, jerking of the head or shoulder, or facial grimacing. Common vocal tics are grunting, throat-clearing, or sniffing.

Symptoms of OCD can lessen or worsen over time. People with OCD or a co-occurring disorder may try to self soothe in a variety of ways. Some may avoid situations that trigger symptoms. Others may participate in more harmful activities such as, drinking alcohol or using drugs.

What Causes OCD?

OCD is a common disorder. It tends to be more prevalent in women than in men. It affects people of all ages but the median age for diagnoses is around 19 years old. Children as young as eight can display symptoms. Generally, boys display onset symptoms before girls. The actual causes for this disorder are unknown but there are risk factors. Risk factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • Brain structure

What is a Co-occurring Disorder?

A co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis refers to people that suffer from both substance use disorder and a mental health disorder (i.e. OCD and alcohol). Often, when people are suffering from a mental health disorder, they will try to self soothe to lessen their anxiety or cope with their illness. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from both substance use and a mental health disorder, don’t self-medicate. Instead, find a dual diagnosis OCD rehab facility that can help treat your illness. Self-medicating will only lead to trouble in your daily life as you may become addicted as well as worsen your mental illness over time.

What are the Differences Between Compulsion and Addiction?

Addiction and compulsions may seem similar. However, they are different. Addiction refers to the process where people become dependent on substances or behaviors to cope with everyday life. Addicts will even use the substance or engage in the behavior despite its danger to their life or other’s lives. Compulsions are a strong urge to do something. Sometimes, you will do the behavior but not always.

There are a few differences between compulsion and addiction. Compulsions don’t give the feelings of pleasure that addictions do. Those suffering from OCD don’t necessarily get any pleasure from engaging in their behavior, it’s just their way of dealing with their obsessions. Another distinction is a person’s sense of reality. 

Many with OCD know that their obsessions are real but to feel relief they engage in the behaviors. Addicts tend to be detached from their actions. They are often in denial that they have a problem and who it’s affecting. Often, it’s not until a traumatic event occurs that they begin to face reality.

Treatment for OCD and Addiction

OCD and addiction are manageable and treatable with the right OCD rehab facility. The right OCD rehab will specialize in treating dual diagnosis disorders to not only help you cope with your OCD symptoms, but also treat your drug or alcohol addiction. LA Detox offers a variety of program options designed to help you start your road to recovery.

Medical Detox

A medical detox program manages your withdrawal symptoms safely. It’s a monitored recovery process that is meant for people that are dealing with drug or alcohol abuse problems. Detox isn’t a “one size fits all” type of program. Each person is thoroughly evaluated to determine what types of medication they’ll need, if any, and how long they may need to stay in medical detox. Medical detox aims to start addicts on the road to recovery without relapse.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is where the patient lives on-site at the OCD rehab facility. A patient may live away from home for several reasons. They may need closer monitoring to avoid relapse or triggers. Medically, it might be necessary and safer. 

Typically, those that stay at an inpatient OCD rehab facility will attend therapy sessions, undergo nutritional therapy to replenish vitamins and nutrients lost during addiction, round the clock medical care, and some may need detox for their withdrawal.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment programs are designed to treat your addiction while you continue your everyday life. This means you can continue working or going to school. They’re tailored to fit your schedule and needs. Studies have shown both inpatient and outpatient programs are equally competent. 

Outpatient programs are ideal for those who aren’t heavily addicted. There are also three types to ensure you get the help you need: intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, and counseling and therapy.

Therapy (Individual Psychotherapy, Group, and Family)

Therapy programs are designed to help provide you and your loved ones with ways to cope with your addiction or illness. There are several types of therapy you may participate in like individual, group, or family.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is just you and your clinician talking one-on-one. They’ll help you with what types of other therapies may be beneficial for you, set up a treatment plan for you, and help you cope with everyday life.

Group Therapy

Group therapy allows you and others to share your experiences. By sharing your experiences, you may be opening the door for others to talk about topics they may have been apprehensive about sharing. It also lets you know that you’re not going through this alone.

Family Therapy

It’s said that addiction affects the whole family. Family therapy can help mend broken bonds between you and a loved one. It also helps you and your loved ones gain perspectives of each other and clarity. It bridges the gap for support as well. A strong support network for you after you get out of OCD rehab is critical.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) uses FDA approved medications and utilizes counseling and behavioral therapies. It’s considered an unconventional treatment compared with a traditional OCD rehab facility method. 

MAT manages addiction more holistically and deals with issues surrounding drug use. Studies have found medications in conjunction with therapy effectively treats opioid use disorders and help maintain sobriety.

Coping with everyday life might be challenging and lead them to seek ways to self soothe through their symptoms. Addiction may occur from self-medicating and present its own set of challenges. If you or a loved one is suffering from OCD and addiction, don’t hesitate to seek treatment by contacting us today.