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At the core of every addiction lies an obsessive behavior. An overwhelming obsession with drugs or alcohol is one of the trademarks of the disease of addiction. This obsession is hard to describe to non-addicts because it persists regardless of any negative consequences. Even addicts struggle to explain why they continue to obsess over drinking, after almost losing everything. But, could managing behaviors be the key to long-term addiction recovery? Let’s see.
Understanding Obsessive Behaviors
An obsession is all-encompassing. Generally, it overwhelms all thoughts and takes control of the mind. Obsessions also go far beyond reasonable interests or passions. They’re dangerous because they cause “normal” people to do things they never imagined they could. Nowhere is this more painfully apparent than in addiction.
Most of us are familiar with obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), but we often link these to being ultra-organized. However, OCD features a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive behaviors. These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and can cause significant distress. Sounds very similar to an addiction disorder, right?
The most common fears among those struggling with OCD include:
- Fear of being exposed to bacteria or viruses
- Obsession with numbers that are “good” or “bad”
- Preoccupations with religious topics
- Fear of getting sick or losing a loved one to illness or injury
- Constant intrusive images of sexual assault
- Aggressive or horrific thoughts about losing control and harming themselves or others
- Doubting and having difficulty tolerating uncertainty
Does OCD Cause Addiction?
Although there isn’t a specific cause for addiction, there are studies that estimate that over 25 percent of people with OCD meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. Those who struggle with obsessive behaviors as children or adolescents are more likely to develop a drug or alcohol problem mostly because they’ll try to self-medicate and use these substances to cope with their symptoms.
It’s widespread to see co-occurring diagnoses with OCD and addiction. Treating the addiction without addressing the symptoms of OCD is unlikely to be effective.
The combination of these disorders can be life-threatening. Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders struggle with high levels of fear. When they add drugs or alcohol to the mix, these symptoms can worsen over time. But, those with OCD have underlying obsessive personalities, which makes them more likely to see their alcohol or drug use turned into a chemical dependence or addiction.
How to Manage Obsessive Behaviors
Here are ways to cope with obsessive-compulsive disorders that are taught in therapy. Medications can often have side effects, and OCD requires long-term treatment, which is why learning ways to cope is paramount for recovery.
- Educate yourself about OCD
- Stay focused on your recovery goals
- Join a support group
- Find healthy outlets
- Learn relaxation and stress management techniques
- Continue your regular activities after leaving treatment
Treating Obsessive Behaviors in Addiction
Treating obsessive behaviors in addiction presents many challenges. However, when you choose a dual diagnosis treatment program, it can be more comfortable to walk through addiction recovery steps.
According to a study by the University of Michigan, medication-assisted programs and behavioral modification therapy are the most common tools to treat these conditions. However, other therapeutic modalities like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help identify and change negative behaviors in patients.
For those struggling with this type of co-occurring disorder, the goal of treatment is to expose them to their object of fear without triggering anxiety and eliminate the irrational anxiety and the consequences of these triggers. Most of the time, intensive outpatient or residential treatment programs are suggested.
In some cases, antidepressant drugs can help minimize the symptoms of OCD. Those taking these medications can concentrate better on their recovery. However, these work best when combined with behavioral therapy and must be under medical supervision to prevent misuse and dependence.
Another important factor of treatment is to build a strong support network. Both addiction and OCD can isolate someone from their family members, friends, partners, and peers. Social isolation only exacerbates anxiety and addiction triggers. When someone starts treatment, they can attend support group meetings that allow them to feel connected to others struggling with the same issues.
Those struggling with obsessive-compulsive behaviors and addiction are masters at hiding their struggles. By the time family and friends realize what’s happening, the illness is in a much more advanced state that requires professional intervention.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we know that addiction is closely related to mental disorders, which is why we offer dual diagnosis programs. We know that addiction is a chronic disease that requires mental health, professional assistance.
Here, we’re able to provide comprehensive and specialized care for those who need help. We also place tremendous emphasis on family intervention, incorporating family therapy sessions, and group counseling opportunities. For those in recovery, having the support of their family and friends can make or break the success of their treatment.
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