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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Addiction



OCD is a common mental illness that can affect people of any age. It’s also one of the most misunderstood. 

Many people don’t know that OCD is a treatable disorder, and even fewer understand what it’s like to live with it

—especially when you think about how OCD affects someone with co-occurring addiction.

Addiction and OCD both involve obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that cause distress for those experiencing them. 

When these two disorders work together, they can create an even more toxic mix than either condition on its own. 

However, because addiction commonly occurs alongside other mental health disorders as well as physical illnesses, treating co-occurring OCD and addiction requires special care from experts in both substance abuse treatment and behavioral therapy techniques designed specifically for this type of dual diagnosis we call “dual diagnosis.” 

The Treatment Center offers comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment programs designed just for this purpose: to help those struggling with both issues find lasting recovery by addressing each problem individually while working together as one unified effort towards wellness.”


Table of Contents

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that affects about 2.2% of the population in the United States. 

People with OCD experience unwanted thoughts or images and feel compelled to do repetitive behaviors like cleaning or counting.

The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder can be treated with medication and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Most people eventually find relief from their symptoms, but if left untreated it can be a lifelong struggle with severe consequences for relationships, work, and school performance, as well as physical health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders like panic attacks or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


How Does Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Affect the Brain?

There is a lot we still don’t know about OCD and how it affects the brain. 

Brain imaging studies have shown that OCD is associated with abnormalities in the frontal and temporal lobes, which are responsible for decision-making and emotional processing. 

Other research has found changes in brain structure in those with OCD compared to those without it.

OCD often goes hand-in-hand with depression, anxiety disorders, and other psychiatric conditions, but it’s not always clear whether these co-existing conditions cause or are caused by OCD itself.

While we don’t know exactly what causes OCD, research suggests that it likely stems from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. 

A person’s genes can make them more susceptible to developing the disorder if they are exposed to certain environmental triggers, such as stress or trauma.


Signs and Symptoms of OCD

Obsessions are unwanted and recurring thoughts, images or impulses that cause anxiety and distress.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels compelled to do in response to an obsession. 

For example, someone with OCD might have the following thought: “What if I forget to lock the front door?” 

This leads them into a cycle of compulsions such as checking their locked door numerous times or avoiding leaving home altogether.

While the thought itself is not dangerous, it causes great distress and anxiety. 

For example, if you have a fear of germs and touch door handles at work all day long, you may feel like your hands are filthy or contaminated. You may then wash them repeatedly in an attempt to remove the “germs” that aren’t really there.


Treatment for OCD

OCD is a serious mental illness that can be treated.

People with OCD often have episodes of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

The best treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 

CBT helps people replace their negative thought patterns with more positive ones. 

It also teaches them coping skills to deal with the obsessions and compulsions that interfere with day-to-day life.

Examples of Obsessions include:

  • Fear of contamination from germs or dirt
  • Hesitation to engage in normal activities because they fear something bad will happen (like being harmed by an evil spirit).

Co-Occurring OCD and Addiction

While the two disorders are different, they can co-occur. This is called co-occurring disorders. OCD and addiction share some things in common, such as:

  • The addictive substance or behavior is used to cope with strong negative emotions
  • The addictive substance or behavior causes distress and problems in relationships, work/school life, finances, or health.


If you or a loved one has OCD that leads to substance abuse, A Treatment Center can help

The Treatment Centers are not just addiction recovery centers—it’s also a place where people with OCD can get the help they need to overcome their addictions. 

We hope that this article has helped you to understand what OCD and addiction are, how they manifest in your brain, and how they can be treated. 

We know that it can be difficult to find good information about these topics, as well as when they overlap with each other. 


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