Every day, someone somewhere is commenting on how they need to straighten their desk because they’re “so OCD.” The trouble is, cleaning a desk because it’s dirty and suffering from a mental illness are two completely separate situations. One of them you can deal with on your own, and the other is a whole disorder that is difficult to treat. So what exactly is OCD, and why is it more complicated than being extra tidy?
What is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a general anxiety disorder that causes those who suffer from it to have recurring thoughts that result in fear and anxiety. Washing hands, obsessive organization, touching things for no reason, and counting items are all a part of the compulsive behaviors that make up OCD.
Why do these individuals do this? When someone with OCD performs these compulsive tasks, it puts their minds at ease. The anxiety, however, slowly creeps back in once the task has been finished. This behavior is mentally destructive and is also a hindrance to an individual’s quality of life.
The Reality of OCD
One of the worst parts of suffering from a mental health disorder is when it’s been made out to be a joke (self-deprecating humor included) or it’s idolized. OCD is a disorder that shows up frequently on television and in movies. The characters who are portrayed as obsessive are obsessive in such a way that it’s meant to be humorous, unique, or horrifying.
Those who suffer from OCD experience a high level of anxiety every second of the day. The torment they experience is real and is difficult to control. Their life has been compromised in a way that affects their job, education, romantic life, family, and social development negatively. One of the most unfortunate parts about this is that sometimes, individuals believe that the best way to cope with their OCD is to use substances of abuse.
OCD and Addiction
The number of individuals looking for a treatment to help with their OCD who also suffer from a substance use disorder is somewhere above 25%. Those who dealt with symptoms of OCD at an early age are more likely to develop a substance use disorder. The reason for this is because if they do so, it becomes easier to cope with the anxiety that follows. This is why it’s imperative to treat an addiction disorder while also addressing the emotional symptoms of OCD.
OCD and Anxiety
Dealing with anxiety is a tough pill to swallow, and for those who suffer from OCD, anxiety comes along with the disorder, often because of it. To cope, people tend to turn to drugs and alcohol. The problem with this is that these substances worsen the symptoms of OCD.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is when someone has a biopsychosocial disorder, often resulting in them feeling an obsessive desire to repeatedly use drugs or alcohol, regardless of how it affects those around them. The brain desires to use more and more of a substance, resulting in abuse, not thinking twice about what it could do to the body.
Those who suffer from a substance use disorder usually can’t stop thinking about their next drink. This is fixated on and obsessed over to the point where it takes over their life. The obsession is to the point where the individual doesn’t even care about what problems it causes. There are many different kinds of treatment available to help those suffering from a substance use disorder.
Some of the most common addictions include the following:
What Addiction Does to the Body
Those who become addicted begin to develop distorted minds due to what the substances do to their brains. When drugs or alcohol are used, chemicals are sent to the pleasure center. This causes the brain to lose interest in things that used to bring a person pleasure and instead develops a desire for a more intense high. The problem with this is that there is no high stronger than the first.
Addiction and Anxiety
Addiction and anxiety are not the greatest combinations in the world. Suffering from anxiety is not easy, and those who suffer deal with real fear regularly that have an impact both emotionally and physically. More times than not, people will turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism because alcohol does a great job at shutting off thoughts that have that kind of impact on the body.
Those who suffer from anxiety are more likely to use dangerous coping mechanisms like alcohol abuse or drug abuse. This is dangerous because it has the potential to lead to a substance use disorder. Addiction, like OCD, is compulsive and therefore motivates a person to pursue destructive behaviors repetitively regardless of the consequences.
OCD: Numbers and Info
OCD has a monumental impact on the lives of those it latches onto. Below are some facts regarding mental health disorder:
- More than 2 million men and women in the U.S. suffer from OCD.
- OCD occurs more frequently in family members.
- Even though someone may realize their OCD is irrational behavior, they can’t help but continue to engage in obsessive behavior.
- Substance use disorder, depression, and anxiety co-occur with OCD frequently.
Signs of OCD
Different individuals deal with their illnesses in different ways, and that’s probably because the intensity of an individual’s OCD is largely dependent on how they are made up. However, some signs and symptoms can be looked out for as identifiers of OCD. Some of these obsessions include:
- Fear of exposure to a virus or bacteria
- Getting sick
- Losing a loved one
- A loved one being injured
- A loved one feeling sick
- Religious topics
When it comes to other common behaviors, some are a little bit more obvious to the naked eye. Some of these include obsessive grooming, organizing, cleaning, or counting. The obsession lies within the thought pattern that if they don’t do these things repeatedly, they’ll be harmed, or someone they love will be harmed. Some individuals believe that if they don’t do these things repeatedly, they’ll hurt another person.
How OCD Affects Women
Men and women are similar in many ways, yet in many ways they’re different. As it relates to OCD, there is no indication that there is more prevalence in one than the other. There are, however, variables as it relates to both of the genders in regards to OCD. OCD presents itself more in males during childhood or adolescence. Females typically develop OCD in their twenties.
When someone is suffering from both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, it’s referred to as a dual diagnosis. In layman’s terms, dual diagnosis is when two mental health disorders happen at the same time. When mental health disorders overlap like this, it’s in the best interest of those who are suffering to seek out and receive specialized care. This is because there is a sense of urgency that comes along with having two mental health disorders at once.
Self-medication is a way in which people who are suffering from a mental health disorder tend to cope. The way they do this is by abusing drugs and alcohol so that they can feel better about what they’re going through. However, regardless of their intentions, this method is objectively bad because it makes people a lot worse off, increasing the likelihood of a substance use disorder.
In the U.S., 9 million adults dealt with mental illnesses in 2018. When it comes to a dual diagnosis, one disorder doesn’t have to happen for another to show up, they just have to be happening at the same time. That’s not to say, however, that addiction can’t trigger a nonexistent mental health disorder. Some mental health disorders triggered by addiction include:
Those who deal with a substance use disorder are twice as likely to develop a mental illness as those who don’t. There are also times, however, that someone could be suffering from an addiction as a direct result of their mental illnesses, but as previously mentioned, this is not always the case.
OCD and Addiction
OCD is a mental disorder that can be made even worse with an addiction. People with OCD may feel the urge to turn to drugs and alcohol to mitigate their symptoms. Unfortunately, addiction can actually make their symptoms even worse. Substance use disorder can intensify obsessions and compulsions and make you spiral even deeper into substance abuse.
OCD and addiction are both mental illnesses that should never go without treatment. There are treatment options available for those who are looking for help. Some of these include the following:
New Directions for Women is Here to Help
OCD is one of the most widely referenced mental illnesses in society. Whether it’s meant to be a joke or being idolized by TV, this mental health disorder is nothing to take lightly. OCD has the potential to lead someone into an addiction.
At New Directions for Women, we specialize in treating our patients uniquely, because we recognize that they all come with their own story. We are committed to providing the utmost in individualized treatment to every woman that walks through our doors. If you or a loved one are suffering from OCD or a substance use disorder, contact us today.