OCD & Addiction

OCD & Addiction

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In this new series, we are going to talk about the similarities and differences between OCD and Addiction. OCD is a mental health disorder in which people have recurring unwanted thoughts called obsessions, that produce anxiety and they engage in ritualistic behaviors called compulsions to neutralize their unwanted feelings.

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness.

Additionally, many OCD sufferers resort to drug or alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism for their OCD. So in this episode, we are going to talk about their similarities with both disorders as they can exist as it is important to understand these two disorders and how they overlap to move towards recovery.




All right. Hello. And welcome to this episode where we're going to talk about OCD and addiction and really just anxiety and addiction. Uh, you know, and, and really what I want to talk about in this episode are kind of, um, basically how anxiety and addiction and OCD can essentially, you know, inter overlap, right. And, um, you know, be, be kind of a dual diagnosis or it could be deep wrestling with both things and they can also exist independently of one, another, right. People can deal with addiction and not deal with, um, OCD and vice versa. Right. And so, um, I want to talk about kind of those three ideas in this episode. And so, um, you know, real quick, if you benefit from these episodes and, uh, you know, you find value, uh, we really appreciate if you would help us out by liking and subscribing and, um, and sharing this with people.


Um, so we can help get this information out to more people because we know just how many people struggle with these types of things. And so our hope is to get resources in the hands of, um, the people that need them. And so when we circle back to the idea of OCD and addiction, let's kind of go ahead and break down the similarities. So with OCD, you have the four components, right? That we're really looking at, you have the intrusive thought, right? That happens. That's what we call the obsession, right? And this generally takes the form of kind of a, what if thought, right? Um, you know, what, if something bad happens, what if something, uh, you know, something bad happened? What if I said something, you know, what, if I get contaminated, right. It takes on various, various different subtypes. And then that, that idea produces a stress response.


And we feel it in the form of anxiety because, because the thought it's usually past or future based, the anxiety that we feel is the same stress response we would feel as if we were in danger. Right. But the problem is, is there's nothing actually to do because the threat's not happening right now. So we feel this surge of energy that we call anxiety. Right. And other feelings can come up to things like guilt, like shame, doubt, right? These things, these feelings are all common too. And then we do a compulsion to alleviate that feeling. Right. And so that's a, so the third part is a compulsion. The fourth step is the relief that we get. And so when we're talking about the OCD loop, it works like this, the thought happens, you get anxious, you do the behavior, you feel relief. And then the thought happens again in this loop just kind of starts to build now this isn't that on, similar from addiction, right.


Because, you know, and, uh, in Dr. Gabor Mateus book in the realm of hungry ghosts, I mean, he, he talks about it and he says like, you know, with his experience working with addiction that, um, you know, chemical use or drug use is, and I'm going to use drug use, but again, addictions can take on so many different forms. Right. They don't have to be just drugs. Right. So let's talk about addiction from a much broader concept, but he talks about how our addictions usually exist in a, as to serve the purpose of getting rid of pain versus pursuing pleasure. All right. And, um, you know, cause addictions can take them things like shopping, right. You know, even relationships, right. Uh, sex and porn. Right. You know, all these things. Right. You know, it can become addictions right along with alcohol, along with, um, you know, weed and, um, you know, and all the various pills and other kinds of, uh, you know, harder drugs, addictions is really just a, a behavior that we do right.


Again and again and again. And it usually offers some kind of temporary shift in our internal state. And again, which is not that dissimilar from a compulsion, right. Because when someone let's say has a compulsion of washing their hands, because they're afraid or that what a thought pops up about what if I get contaminated and they feel anxious and they wash their hands and that gives them that instantaneous relief. And then the thought just kind of the loop just builds. Well, it's really not that dissimilar. Right. You know, from, um, someone who let's say feels anxious and then, um, you know, maybe they have, what if thoughts? And then they, you know, uh, feel anxious, but then they drink alcohol and that causes that relief to kind of set in and then the cycle that repeats itself. So, you know, in my opinion, I mean addiction because addiction is such a broad concept, you know, and, and broad scope of all the different things we can be addicted to.


Um, you know, it, that, that cycle is very, very similar. Now the one thing I would say that if we're working, if I was working with someone who was experiencing both, and when I, and I'm going to, in this context, I'm going to talk about the idea of using some kind of chemical addiction. Right. Whether in, in a really kind of some kind of mind altering substance, anything from alcohol to marijuana to, you know, um, hard, harder drugs, right? Like, you know, things like opiates, um, methamphetamines, something like that. Right. I mean, you know, benzodiazepines, when you're talking about having an addiction, when we talk about treating OCD, it's important to be sober. Right. You know, uh, in, in the sense of like, if we're using chemical, you know, if we have some kind of chemical dependency, how I would personally do it, if I was working with someone, what I would have, I would have to be that the person would get clean before we worked on the OCD treatment.


Right. The reason being is because when we're dealing with OCD and anxiety treatment, one of the main components of it is, you know, the exposure and response prevention to expose ourselves to the uncomfortable feelings. Right. And then prevent ourselves from engaging in the behaviors that are causing that temporary relief to allow our body, to habituate to the anxiety over. Right. And when it comes to someone dealing with OCD and addiction, yes. Their, their drug use, right. Whatever that drug is can actually be the compulsion. Right. So the treatments can overlap. Absolutely. But if your coping mechanism is to use some kind of mind altering substance, the problem is, is that if, if you don't have any kind of graph, like, you know, really control over that. Right. You know, cause that's one of the kind of things about addiction is, is that it just kind of takes over, right.


In some cases, and if you're using some kind of substance on a ongoing basis, it's not going to allow for the treatment of OCD to work. Right. So really getting the person clean right. And being clean for, uh, you know, a certain period of time before we start, the ERP is going to be important in, in actually generally speaking, because the OCD is driving the drug use, getting clean and then doing the OCD treatment will hopefully allow for the, you know, the drug treatment as well to be even more successful. Right. Because you're treating in some cases, the root cause. Now that doesn't mean that everyone that has an addiction or struggles with addiction has OCD. That doesn't work like that. Right. What I'm saying is when these two things are overlapping, when we know that this person has OCD and they also are struggling with a chemical dependency or some kind of dependency getting sober first allows for a clear enough mind to even understand the treatment.


Right. And to even start to understand what we're doing, because with, with OCD and anxiety treatment, that psycho-education is so important. So we want the person to be sober and we want, um, and then ultimately if the drug use was part of the compulsive behaviors, yes, we are going to aim to stop that, but getting sober to the point where you can at least go through the psycho-education and begin to understand the fundamentals of the treatment and begin low level exposures is going to be, is gonna be paramount to the person's success. So, you know, obviously this works on a case by case basis. This isn't like a catch all like everyone needs to follow this path, but this stuff, you know, a lot of times will go hand in hand. And that's why it's important to understand that if we are, um, if we are going to be working with someone who has both is experiencing both, then what we're gonna have to do is we're going to have to first start with sobriety and then move into OCD treatment.


Now, if you're treating individually, then yeah. Then you treat them individually. But, um, I just kinda wanted to talk about how they overlap. Right. And, um, I wanted to talk about if we are dealing with both, if there's a dual diagnosis, um, in my opinion, it's important that we treat the sobriety or, you know, we would get sober first, right. And if for a long enough time to where you'll even be receptive to the treatment. And then once we initiate with the ERP treatment, acceptance commitment, therapy, mindfulness, um, in my experience that will actually reinforce a lot of the treatment that's done with the addiction as well. So, um, that's kind of how that would work together. So hopefully that's helpful. And, um, you know, if you struggle with OCD, anxiety, or other forms of psychological stress, we actually have resources for you write down in the notes here, below this, um, below this. So, uh, you know, there's free downloads and other free trainings. We also have our support community where we do live zoom calls. And so you can, uh, check that out as well, as well as some of our more premium trainings [email protected] So thank you so much for tuning in and hanging out. Uh, during this episode, I hope you guys have a great week and I'll see you in the next episode, take care.

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