OCD and Addictionby baladmin | August 27, 2015
According to the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 25% of those who seek treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) also have a substance abuse disorder. OCD is the overwhelming need to do a task repetitively; such as, hand washing, checking locked doors, updating a calendar, counting calories, etc… Doing these tasks temporarily relieves anxiety. In some cases the anxiety from OCD becomes so overwhelming that people start self-medicating with drugs and alcohol-which can turn into an addiction.
Similar to chemical abuse, OCD is determined by a combination of genetics, environment and stress. For many, OCD symptoms appear before the age of 15 years old. Studies show that children who have had untreated strep throat are at a higher risk for developing OCD. The antibodies in strep throat mistakenly attack part of the brain known as the basal ganglia, resulting in OCD in genetically-predisposed children. The basal ganglia controls hand motor movement. This development is known as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep (PANDAS.)
As well, there are several reports that OCD can be triggered by a traumatic event. People who have had more stressful life events before the onslaught of OCD are more likely to engage in compulsions as an attempt to gain a sense of control in an unpredictable environment. Similar to many who use drugs and alcohol to numb anxiety, many who have OCD use their repetitive rituals and tic’s to medicate their anxiety.
Effective treatments for OCD are exposure response therapy (ERT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In ERT one learns how to experience anxiety while slowly titrating away from the compulsion. CBT explores the underlying cause of the anxiety. If you or a loved one is experiencing an addiction and/ or OCD please seek treatment immediately. As both disorders are progressive.