Ocd And Addiction

When people think of OCD, they often picture someone meticulously arranging items or colour-coding their belongings. While these behaviours can be part of OCD, the disorder is much more complex, especially when combined with addiction. This page provides a thorough exploration of OCD, addiction and the dual diagnosis of these conditions.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects many people globally. It involves a cycle of persistent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours (compulsions), which can consume a lot of time and cause significant stress.


Obsessions are thoughts, images or urges that keep popping up in your mind and make you feel anxious. These can include:


  • Contamination fears: Worrying about germs or dirt.
  • Doubts: Worrying you might have left the door unlocked or the stove on.
  • Order and symmetry: Feeling the need for things to be perfectly arranged.
  • Harm: Worrying you might hurt yourself or others.


Compulsions are actions you feel you have to do to try to ease the anxiety caused by your obsessions. These can include:


  • Cleaning: Washing your hands or cleaning things over and over.
  • Checking: Checking locks, appliances or other things repeatedly.
  • Repeating: Doing certain actions a specific number of times or until it feels right.
  • Arranging: Making sure things are in a certain order or position.


People with OCD might not want to perform these tasks but feel compelled to relieve their anxiety or prevent something bad from happening. However, engaging in these compulsions doesn’t necessarily bring pleasure and provides only temporary relief from anxiety.

Am I suffering from OCD?

If you recognise some of the OCD obsession and compulsions behaviours in yourself, it might be worth speaking with a doctor. Additionally, asking yourself some questions can help determine if OCD behaviours are present:


  • Do you frequently have unwanted, intrusive thoughts that cause you significant distress or anxiety?
  • Do you find yourself performing certain routines or rituals repeatedly to alleviate anxiety, even if you know they are not logically necessary?
  • Do you feel a strong need for things to be symmetrical or in a specific order, and do you get upset if they are not?
  • Do you spend a significant amount of time (more than an hour a day) on repetitive behaviours or mental rituals?
  • Do you often doubt whether you’ve completed a task correctly, such as locking the door or turning off the stove, leading you to check repeatedly?
  • Do you avoid certain places, people or situations to prevent triggering your obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours?


Answering “yes” to these questions might suggest that you have OCD behaviours. Consulting with a healthcare professional can provide you with a clearer understanding and appropriate support.

Is there a link between OCD and addiction?

Some individuals with OCD may engage in addictive behaviours to alleviate their unwanted symptoms. This is known as self-medication, and frequent engagement in such behaviours can lead to the development of an addiction, as they rely on these substances for temporary relief.


Below, we take a look at some of the most commonly linked addictions that could co-occur with those with OCD:

Substance abuse and OCD

Research shows a possible link between obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and substance abuse, though the connection is complex and not fully understood. A study comparing people with and without OCD found that those with OCD are much more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol.


Key findings included that those with OCD show:


  • A 4.5 times greater risk of alcohol-related disorders.
  • A 6.7 times higher likelihood of drug-related disorders.
  • A 1.2 times increased chance of a substance use–related criminal conviction.
  • A 5.2 times higher risk of dying from substance-related causes.
  • A 10.5 times higher risk of disorders related to sedatives and other drugs.
  • By age 32, 23% of individuals with OCD had alcohol- and drug-related disorders, compared to just 5% in the general population.


These statistics show a strong link between SUD and OCD.

Shopping addiction and OCD

Shopping addiction, known as Compulsive Buying Behaviour (CBB), is a chronic, repetitive behaviour that people use to cope with negative events and feelings. Compulsive buyers become obsessed with shopping, using it as a way to alleviate their negative emotions. This behaviour temporarily reduces the intensity of their negative feelings but often leads to further issues in the long run.


Currently, the available operational definitions rely on CBB’s similarities with disorders in the impulse control spectrum, such as those linked to OCD.

Sex addiction and OCD

OCD and sex addiction (sometimes known as hypersexuality) share similarities, often revolving around obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. People with sex addiction may seek sexual activities as a coping mechanism to manage their anxiety or intrusive sexual thoughts, some of which are unwanted. 

This can create a cycle where the compulsive sexual behaviour temporarily relieves anxiety but ultimately reinforces the obsessive thoughts.

Both conditions involve difficulties with impulse control and can significantly impact daily life and relationships.

It’s worth noting that while both sex addiction and OCD share similarities, there are no known links between the two.

Disclaimer: It’s important to remember that not everyone with OCD develops an addiction, and not everyone with an addiction has OCD. The relationship between the two can vary from person to person.

How is OCD and addiction treated in rehab centres?

Dealing with addiction recovery can be incredibly challenging, but having access to a variety of supportive tools and approaches is essential for a positive outcome. Addressing both OCD and addiction through a dual-diagnosis approach can greatly enhance overall recovery success.


Although most rehab centres do not have dedicated rehab programmes specifically for OCD, many of their treatment modalities for addiction can help in managing OCD symptoms. 


Usually, one of the first stages that will take place at addiction and OCD rehab is the detox stage (if necessary). Detoxing services are tailored to the type of substance addiction and provide round-the-clock care from professional medical staff to ensure comfort and safety during detox.


Therapy is the next part of rehab and is a crucial part of the healing process. Individual and group therapy sessions delve into the underlying causes of addiction and OCD. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is employed to help clients develop skills for emotional regulation, offering a path to greater stability and peace.


Holistic therapies, such as yoga and meditation, are integrated to enhance overall health and wellness. These practices not only foster self-awareness but also help alleviate stress and build emotional resilience, supporting a more balanced and mindful life.


Aftercare is the last stage of rehab and is an essential part of the recovery journey, offering continued support through group therapy. This creates a nurturing environment where experiences can be shared and coping mechanisms reinforced. The integrated therapeutic strategies at rehab centres are designed to address substance addiction while effectively managing OCD, ensuring a compassionate and comprehensive approach to recovery.

What are the next steps?

If you’re struggling with the challenges of both OCD and addiction, remember that you’re not in this fight alone, and rehab centres understand the significant toll these issues can take on your well-being.

Reach out to us for empathetic support and effective treatment options for both OCD and addiction.  Across the UK, dedicated rehab teams are committed to guiding you on the path to recovery, providing a nurturing space where you can rediscover hope and begin to rebuild your life.

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