OCD and alcoholism can be linked in individuals who turn to drinking to reduce the compulsive behaviors tied to their condition. While alcoholism can provide a mask for OCD, it can also intensify the severity of OCD symptoms.
Any casual use of the term OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) in conversation may minimize the potential threat from its impact on behaviors. For example, when people use it as shorthand for being a “neat freak”, its actual definition becomes unclear, and its severity may be overlooked. One particular outcome of untreated OCD can be a change in drinking habits. Let’s look at some of the risk factors that can come from OCD and alcoholism. Help for both disorders is available in an integrated treatment program at Hanley Center, where men and women can receive age and gender-specific care.
What Is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by repetitive behaviors that are considered highly disruptive and unwelcome. These compulsive behaviors are tied to a person’s obsessive fears. Not doing these compulsive behaviors can cause more stress. A common example of OCD is seen in someone who repeatedly washes their hands due to a fear of spreading germs. OCD can have widespread consequences on a person’s ability to function at work, stay employed, maintain relationships, and more. These behaviors may be visible to others or kept hidden by a person with OCD. They may be able to achieve short-term relief through these ritualistic behaviors before emotional and physical distress return.
What Is Alcoholism?
An alcoholic is someone who suffers from an alcohol use disorder. People with alcoholism may drink excessively when they drink with or without the intention of getting drunk. They may drink daily and still appear to function at work and home. Their drinking history has likely raised their tolerance, so it gradually takes more and more drinks to achieve the same effect. If they try to quit, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating, mood swings, and hallucinations.
Alcoholism As A Mask For OCD
People with OCD may feel stigmatized by the condition and look for ways to reduce its appearance. Drinking can become one way they feel they can achieve that goal. As they drink, their inhibitions lower, and their reaction time slows down. Responses like these can make the compulsive behavior feel less important and easier to ignore. By being able to turn off the unwelcome thoughts that link to the involuntary behaviors, a person with OCD can appear to function normally when drinking socially.
How Alcoholism Worsens OCD
Although drinking appears to give people with OCD a break from compulsive behaviors, alcoholism actually worsens the condition. First, it interferes with the need to address obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors in healthy ways and with the help of a therapist. Also, excessive drinking can create memory and concentration problems, difficulty focusing on tasks and mood changes. These long-term effects can increase the intensity and duration of compulsive behaviors and make them an even more destructive force in a person’s life. For example, someone with OCD affected by alcoholism may not be able to remember the act of washing their hands upon leaving a bathroom and return again and again to repeat the same activity.
Treatment For OCD And Alcoholism at Hanley Center
The treatment teams at Hanley Center are accustomed to personalizing care for people with chronic conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance use disorders. Responding to these co-occurring disorders begins with offering patients a medical detox followed by evidence-based therapies in a residential setting. Comprehensive treatment for co-occurring disorders involves psychiatric services, ongoing care, family education and programming, and life skills training. Preparing a person with OCD and an alcohol use disorder for staying in recovery behind the treatment program at Hanley Center relies on recovery support and continuing care planning set in motion before a patient leaves.
Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for mental illnesses and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting wellness.