Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly abbreviated as OCD, is a disorder based around anxiety-producing obsessions and the attempts to reduce them. The disorder can intrude and interrupt upon a person’s life, inhibiting normal function and day to day living. The National Institute of Mental Health reports the lifetime prevalence of OCD at 1.6% of the U.S. population, of those, about about 0.5% show severe symptoms of the disorder. OCD is often portrayed in movies or television by an individual who has extraordinary talents plus the eccentricities of OCD behaviors. While these portrayals may not mean to romanticize the disorder, they can downplay the negative impact and severity of the disorder by reducing it to comedic quirks or cartoonish displays.
A person with OCD may have obsessions, compulsions or both. Obsessions are defined as persistent and recurrent thoughts, images or urges often related to a specific fear. The person will try to suppress them with other thoughts or actions (such as a compulsion). Some common obsessions are a fear of germs or dirt, the fear of hurting oneself or others and superstitions. Compulsions are behaviors, physical or mental, that the person feels compelled to perform in order to alleviate anxiety or try to stop the occurrence of some undesirable event. These may be counting, checking, organizing, washing, etc. The behaviors cannot realistically do anything prevent the incident or anxiety, they do not bring the person any pleasure and though they may relieve anxieties temporarily they do not solve them. The person is aware of this, but cannot control their behavior. There are often elaborate rules in regards to how they must be performed. The compulsion(s) take up a significant amount of time and keep the person from participating in his or her life. While the person may be aware of the behaviors, they might not seem them as abnormal and there is usually no attempt to hide them.
OCD is described as a chronic, lifelong disease, however, a person may have periods varying in severity. Stressful life events, specific triggers that precipitate anxiety or general increases in stress may all bring on a period of increased symptomatology. The average age of onset is 19 years old, however, a person can show symptoms and and develop the disorder as a young child. OCD does not present past the age of 35.
With fear and anxiety playing such a strong role in the structure of the disorder, it is unsurprising that those with OCD can seek out other methods to try to reduce their overall anxiety or decrease their OCD behaviors. Those with OCD can be at specific risk for using substances, particularly with alcohol and marijuana abuse, to help alleviate or escape their disorder. The risks around alcohol & marijuana abuse for those with OCD significantly increase when they are linked to another co-occurring disorder.
There is a significant amount of research that shows OCD and Bipolar Disorder, or related disorders, to be highly linked to one another. Depression also shows a high prevalence among those who have been diagnosed with OCD. Those with OCD show a higher likelihood of experiencing dysthymia, a long-term mild form of depression, than the general population. The population of co-occurring OCD and Bipolar show higher rates of suicidality, greater levels of anxiety and have more trouble coping overall. Furthermore, this population is at a high risk for developing an alcohol dependence disorder. While alcohol may be used in order to reduce symptoms, it can exacerbate distress and and further degrade coping skills. Research has shown that finding treatment centers or outpatient care for adolescents or teens who have OCD and Bipolar can help reduce the possibility of alcohol dependence.
If someone is already struggling with OCD and Bipolar and is abusing alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs to cope, it is imperative to find appropriate help for that individual. Alcohol rehabilitation centers for teens or marijuana addiction treatment centers for young adults can help to get dependence managed and allow treatment for the underlying disorders.
There are very effective treatments for OCD; specific behavioral therapies in combination with medication can have great success. As with many psychological disorder, the sooner help is sought out the better. OCD can begin at a young age and can severely limit a person’s ability to interact with world and participate in life normally. When OCD is coupled with a substance addiction, the consequences can be more severe and longer lasting. Until the addiction is managed, it is difficult to properly treat the OCD.
If you or someone you love is suffering from substance addiction and OCD, we are available to help. We provide drug & alcohol addiction treatment in Denver, CO and Boulder, CO. We will give you support as you begin this next step. There is help available. Contact Us.
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