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Treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Addiction

Up to 50% of people who seek treatment for addiction also struggle with a co-occurring mental health condition.[1] One mental health condition that has several overlapping symptoms with substance use disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Living with obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction can make recovery even more challenging. It’s essential to understand OCD and how it can impact the development and treatment of addiction.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition estimated to affect about one in 40 (about 2.5 million) adults in the United States.[2] Although OCD is portrayed in movies and TV as people being extra clean, fussy, or well-organized, obsessive-compulsive disorder is actually a very disruptive condition that prevents people from functioning in their daily lives. 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder causes people to have intrusive, obsessive, and compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Similar to addiction, people with OCD struggle with obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors.


Examples of common obsessions in people with OCD:

  • Fear of germs, contamination, and illness
  • Preoccupation with “good” and “bad” numbers
  • Intrusive violent thoughts about self and others
  • Preoccupation with religious ideas or “bad” or sinful thoughts
  • Intrusive thoughts about sexual acts and behaviors
  • Fear of others dying due to illness or injury


Compulsions that often result from the obsessions in people with OCD include:

  • Frequent, excessive washing or cleaning
  • Excessive “double-checking” of lights, appliances, door locks, etc.
  • Frequent praying due to religious fear
  • Tapping, counting, or repeating words to manage stress and anxiety
  • Hoarding items or trash

One criterion for an OCD diagnosis is the severity and frequency of a person’s obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. To qualify for a diagnosis of OCD, people must engage in these thoughts and behaviors for more than an hour each day.[3] 

Many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder spend a great deal of time and energy performing compulsive behaviors or struggling with obsessive, intrusive thoughts. A person’s OCD symptoms may prevent them from taking care of their responsibilities. For example, someone may spend so much time double-checking their locks or appliances that they are frequently late for work or appointments. 

Without treatment, obsessive-compulsive disorder can cause depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. People with obsessive or compulsive thoughts and behaviors should have an evaluation and seek OCD treatment as soon as possible. 

What is the Connection Between Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Addiction?

The link between OCD and addiction seems to be clear. About one in four people in treatment for OCD also live with a substance use disorder.[4] But why is this the case?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can cause severe, chronic stress and can interfere with a person’s health and relationships. And when a person’s anxiety or discomfort exceeds their ability to cope, they are at risk of relying on drugs or alcohol for relief.

When someone uses substances to manage their emotional or physical pain, it’s called self-medicating. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol may temporarily relieve chronic stress, pain, or emotional discomfort–but at a high price. When someone relies on substances to cope with their stress or pain, they often end up using more and more of the drug over time to get the same effect. They are unlikely to learn healthy coping skills that provide long-term relief from their pain and may develop a dependence or addiction to the substances.

People with OCD already struggle with mental obsession and compulsive behaviors, which are two characteristics of addiction. People who struggle with addiction experience a mental obsession over drugs or alcohol, and that obsession is so strong that individuals compulsively engage in substance abuse–even if they don’t want to continue using.

Many people with addiction require professional, comprehensive substance abuse treatment to overcome the condition and learn the skills they need to avoid relapses in the future. 

Do I Need Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Addiction?

If you have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and live with substance abuse or addiction, you may require treatment for both conditions. 

Some of the signs of substance abuse and addiction include:

  • Wanting to stop using substances but feeling unable to do so
  • Requiring more of the substance to get the same effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance
  • Using more of the substance than you intended
  • Neglecting responsibilities and relationships because of substance use
  • Facing legal or financial trouble related to substance use
  • Continuing to use drugs and alcohol despite facing the negative consequences of substance use

A doctor or addiction specialist will perform an evaluation to determine which level of addiction treatment will meet your needs and help you reach your personal goals. Then, your treatment team will create a plan to address your OCD and addiction so that you can stop using substances safely and avoid relapses in the future. 

Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Addiction

If you are diagnosed with OCD and live with substance abuse, you must seek treatment for both conditions simultaneously. Treating addiction without learning to manage your OCD symptoms will likely result in poor outcomes, including relapse. Similarly, managing your OCD symptoms without addressing your addiction is likely to worsen your substance use. 

Dual diagnosis addiction treatment programs provide integrated care for both mental illness and substance abuse. Treatment begins with a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse assessment to determine your individual needs.

Treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder includes:

  • Medications–Luvox, Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Anafranil, and others
  • Individual counseling
  • Lifestyle changes

Your treatment team can incorporate these elements into substance abuse treatment plans, which generally include a combination of evidence and holistic therapies. A typical addiction treatment plan may consist of the following:

  • Medically-supported detox
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Education
  • Holistic therapies like exercise, nutrition counseling, mindfulness, and music therapy

The level of care and length of time you spend in treatment will depend on the severity of your addiction and other personal factors. 

Find Help Now

At the Mandala Healing Center, we are sensitive to the fact that every person we treat comes from a different background and has a unique set of needs. Our wide array of addiction treatment offerings allows us to cater to each patient’s strengths, and find the programs and activities that work best on an individual level. 

Our evidenced-based programs and holistic methods are designed to keep patients engaged in treatment, develop the necessary life strategies and skills to sustain long-term sobriety, and achieve optimal health and internal balance.

Reach out to the Mandala Healing Center staff to learn more about the connection between OCD and addiction or to learn more about starting one of our dual diagnosis treatment programs.