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Learn how OCD and OCPD can be misunderstood conditions that interact with addiction.

OCD, OCPD and Addiction: How Two Misunderstood Conditions Interact with Addiction

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There is a lot of misunderstanding about obsessive-compulsive disorders and the impacts they can have on a person’s daily life. Clearing up how these disorders work, and the potential they have for leading to addiction, can help pave the way for appropriate treatment.

The term “OCD” is often casually dropped in popular culture to describe behaviour that may come off as obsessive or overly meticulous. However, this usage has little real connection to the complexities of the two conditions that it actually refers to – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). 

In fact, people don’t even realise that obsessive compulsive behaviours tend to manifest in these two different conditions. While OCD is an anxiety disorder, OCPD is a personality disorder – these distinctions impact not only the symptoms of the disorders, but also the ways in which people may seek to cope with symptoms, including the potential for addiction.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder characterised by the presence of obsessions, which are unwanted yet persistent thoughts, images or urges that cause distress. These then lead to compulsions or the behaviours a person engages in to attempt to alleviate the obsession and related stress. 

Common types of obsessive thoughts occur around things like:

  • Contamination (i.e. germs, chemicals, or dirt)
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Accidentally harming oneself or others
  • Order and organisation

Obsessive thoughts lead to a range of compulsive behaviours such as:

  • Washing and cleaning
  • Checking (that you did not hurt anyone, that you locked the doors, etc.)
  • Counting or mentally reviewing
  • Repeating actions
  • Rearranging

Though some people may label their patterns or habits as “a little bit OCD,” the reality of actual OCD is that it can be intensely time-consuming, and can cause severe impacts to a person’s everyday life. Some may try to deal with their symptoms by avoiding triggers, which can cause additional isolation and disturbance to existing relationships and responsibilities, while others may attempt to cope through substance abuse. 

OCD and Addiction

People with anxiety disorders are at greater risk for addiction, with one study reporting 20% of people with an anxiety disorder also having a co-occurring addiction. If you are living with OCD, you may feel like you are not in control, or like you can’t shut off your thoughts. This can be extraordinarily stressful and exhausting, and it is not uncommon for people to self-medicate through drug or alcohol use. 

What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)?

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder is a type of personality disorder that is distinguished by perfectionism, as well as rigid attention to neatness and order. People with OPCD feel an intense need to control the environment around them, which can include attempting to conform the habits or behaviours of others to their standards. 

Common traits of OCPD include:

  • Finding it hard to express feelings
  • Being socially isolated
  • Finding it challenging to form and maintain personal relationships
  • Inability to let go of small details, which can lead to inefficiencies at work
  • Feeling righteous and angry about that which does not conform to personal standards
  • Anxiety and depression

Often people with OCPD aren’t aware that they have a personality disorder, instead believing that others lack appropriate standards or discipline. However, the presence of certain symptoms can indicate someone may have OCPD, including things like:

  • Extraordinary attention to detail
  • Formal or stiff interactions with others
  • Production of extensive lists
  • Extreme frugality
  • Hoarding 
  • Difficulty finishing tasks on time due to intense focus on small details
  • Inability to delegate work or let other people help with basic tasks
  • Strict adherence to a personal code and outside rules or regulations
  • Need to schedule and plan far in advance, with no accommodation for changes

OCPD and Addiction

Because people with OCPD often feel a strong compulsion to adhere to rules and have strict standards for personal behaviour, they tend to be less likely to be affected by addiction than those with other types of personality disorders. However, for those with OCPD who do have an addiction, they may experience intense feelings of guilt and shame, which could lead to a worsening of both conditions as they struggle to reconcile their addiction with their own personal code.

Getting Help for OCD and OCPD

Both OCD and OCPD are recognised mental health disorders that require professional treatment in order to alleviate and manage symptoms so that those living with these conditions lead a healthy, more balanced life. 

Treatment for OCPD

Because the symptoms of OCPD can cause major challenges in building relationships with others, professional treatment can be useful in gaining perspective on this condition and analysing behaviours that may create obstacles in social interactions. While people living with OCPD often don’t feel like anything is wrong with their behaviour, encouragement from family or friends may be useful in helping them to seek treatment. 

Treatment for OCPD often includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy designed to uncover and analyse causes and triggers of certain behaviours and work on forming new patterns. Relaxation techniques may also be useful in helping someone with OCPD cope with anxiety, stress, or depression related to their condition.

Treatment for OCD

OCD is a serious but treatable condition that requires professional and personalised care. Treatment should be customised to the specific needs of the individual, and will generally incorporate several methods. CBT is one type of tool commonly used to address OCD, as are stress-relievers like yoga, meditation, and regular exercise. New technologies, like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive treatment that helps stimulate nerve cells, may also be effective in reducing symptoms.

Treating Co-Occurring Addiction

When addiction is also present in someone with OCD or OPCD, this needs to be treated as a co-occurring disorder. This means ensuring that treatment is holistic, and encompasses addressing both the mental health issue as well as the addiction in order to promote an effective and sustainable recovery. Identifying a treatment programme with experience in dealing with co-occurring disorders is critical for getting the right care.

Finding Relief for Mental Health Disorders and Addiction at The Dawn

The Dawn Rehab Thailand offers residential mental health and addiction treatment programmes for those struggling with their OCD and OCPD and help them to get back to life.

The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in Thailand offers unique, holistic mental wellness and addiction programmes designed to help clients gain a deeper understanding of their symptoms and learn skills to manage their conditions. We work with each client to develop a highly personalised treatment plan to address unique challenges like co-occurring disorders, and offer the best possible outcomes. 

Located in beautiful Northern Thailand, The Dawn is home to an international team of experts specialising in a range of treatments, from modern psychotherapies, to proven wellness practices and cutting-edge technologies. Internationally accredited by the American Accreditation Commission International, The Dawn is also the only residential centre in Asia to offer Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatment. 

Long-Term Alcohol and Drug Rehab

The Dawn offers long-term rehab that focuses on in-depth mental health treatment and further guidance through the continuum of care, which includes detox, addiction and mental health treatment, a step-down programme, and aftercare services. This means that instead of spending four weeks in treatment and then heading home, the rehab model is generally eight weeks, and is flexible, all-inclusive and can be extended based on the unique needs of the client. Long-term rehab is especially important for adequately addressing the complexities of co-occurring disorders.

Call The Dawn today and learn more about how we can help you lead a healthier, happier life.

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