The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes obsessive-compulsive disorder as an anxiety disorder that causes the afflicted individual to engage in compulsive behaviors in an effort to relieve the anxiety that specific undesired feelings, sensations, or thoughts bring on. In a given year, about 3.3 million Americans suffer from OCD.
OCD can completely disrupt a person’s life. The disorder is often misunderstood – it’s not simply about being anal about a clean home or a control freak. Individuals with OCD cannot feel comfortable or content without engaging in specific behaviors that ease their anxiety. These behaviors may include:
- Checking repeatedly to be sure the front door is locked
- Counting trivial things, such as how many steps from the mailbox to the front porch
- Repeatedly washing hands
Specifics of OCD
OCD is rooted in compulsions, which are behaviors individuals are driven to engage due to anxiety. For some, a diagnosis of pure obsessional OCD means they have all the symptoms of the disorder without any compulsions.
OCD is more likely to affect individuals who have a history of mental illness, who are in the postpartum period, who have a genetic tie to the disorder, or who have environmental stresses that trigger the development of the disorder. Those who suffer from OCD have a 25 percent chance that someone else in their family has the disorder, per Remedy’s Health Communities.
The following are good indicators that OCD may be present:
- An extreme fear of getting dirty, germs, or contamination
- Undesired obsessive thoughts
- Frightening thoughts about self-harm or hurting others
- Intense preoccupation with keeping things in place and organized
The role of OCD in substance abuse
For many sufferers of mental illness, substance misuse and abuse are merely ways of self-medicating the uncomfortable symptoms of their disorders. In fact, about 29 percent of mentally ill individuals abuse drugs or alcohol, Cigna Behavioral reports.
One of the most difficult aspects of OCD is diagnosing it, especially when it overlaps with substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can often mask the symptoms of underlying disorders. When a disorder like OCD isn’t treated, it often worsens. Concurrent substance abuse may decrease symptoms for the sufferer and make life seem more bearable despite the worsening OCD. Since the individual may feel better, albeit temporarily, it often leads to more substance abuse. In short order, a serious addiction can develop. An OCD individual can even transfer some of their obsessive tendencies to their use of dangerous substances.
Thankfully, help is available that can allow you to gain control over the symptoms of OCD. With proper care, individuals can learn to cope with the effects of their disorder and effectively live balanced, healthy lives. If you’d like more information on how treatment can help you gain control of your obsessive-compulsive disorder so you can live the life you want, contact us today. We are here 24/7 to take your call and answer your questions.