Substance abuse, from alcohol or drug abuse, can create or worsen existing mental health disorders. Panic and anxiety disorders are common with the use of alcohol, benzodiazepines (Xanax, etc.), and opioids like heroin or prescription painkillers. But one common disorder linked to substance abuse does not get a lot of attention, even though its ties to substance abuse and addiction are strong.
OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a mental health disorder that is characterized by obsessive behaviors that a person cannot control. The most well-known of these behaviors is the obsessive washing of hands and fear of germs — which is a common trait among severe OCD sufferers.
The obsessions don’t always have to do with germs, though. Below are some common behaviors associated with OCD symptoms:
OCD and Constantly Checking
Constantly Checking – constantly checking phone messages or emails to the point where it is beyond being just efficient. Checking on your kids, spouse or relatives to make sure they are safe is another form of “constantly checking.” Some are obsessed with checking to make sure the gas stove or other fire hazards in the house are turned off or safe. The act of constantly checking or worrying about something is the true OCD behavior, even though the triggers can be random or different.
OCD and Fear of Losing Things
Fear of Losing Things — is another common fear of OCD sufferers that triggers obsessive behaviors. This fear compels a person to obsess over keeping things where they can be found, keeping things organized, and constantly arranging or checking to make sure everything is in its spot. Again, OCD is characterized by obsessive and unhealthy behaviors; therefore, the organization and arranging behaviors are beyond healthy, and are obsessive and negatively affect daily life.
OCD and Ordering and Arranging Things
Ordering and Arranging Things — is often connected to the “Fear of Losing Things.” The obsession to order and arrange items goes beyond just keeping things neat and orderly. An Obsessive Compulsive person will lose sleep over arranging items, or find it hard to concentrate until after they “correct” something. Straightening a rug or an item on a table might be the compulsive behavior, or even straightening their own clothing constantly. Once again, it is the obsessive thoughts that overtake a person and the action needs to be taken, regardless of what that action is.
OCD, Counting, and Obsession With Numbers
Counting and Obsession With Numbers — tends to be prominent in musicians, engineers, and other OCD sufferers with a deep understanding of mathematics, measurements, rhythm and music. An OCD sufferer obsessed with counting might count the syllables of another person’s speech or their own speech. Musicians with OCD have been known to group items or ideas into groups of 4ths or 8ths and other musical bars. Other OCD sufferers have learned that counting and going through numbers in their head has a sort of self-medicating effect; relieving anxiety linked to OCD. Many other individuals become obsessed with the meaning and connection of numbers, like in the science of numerology or even superstitious beliefs relate to numbers.
OCD, Superstitious Behaviors, Patterns, and Avoidance
Superstitious Behaviors, Patterns, and Avoidance — Another common behavior of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that is often linked to the obsession with numbers is an obsession with superstitions and patterns. An OCD sufferer may become obsessed with certain times or dates (like “11:11”, “3:33”, “9:11”, “11:09”, etc.). They may start to see the prime numbers in dates and times, or other patterns that lead to behaviors of compulsion or avoidance. Some people may not leave their house on the anniversary dates that stick-out in their mind. Or, they may be compelled to take certain repetitive actions on certain dates or times. These actions or behaviors are considered problematic when they become out of the control of the person, obsessive, and compulsive.
OCD, Hoarding, Compulsive Shopping, Fear of Missing Out
Hoarding, Compulsive Shopping, Fear of Missing Out — are patterns of behavior that are extremely problematic, and often get the most out of control. Addictive behaviors are tied to the root causes of OCD and the obsessions. Compulsive hoarding, shopping or “collecting” usually makes you feel good due to a dopamine release (the reward system in the brain). This is why these behaviors often become so obsessive — the person is chemically dependent on the rewarding acts of buying, collecting, shopping, or “taking stock” of what they have.” This obsession can also spill over to “collecting friends.” An obsession to be the most liked person, have the most friends, and have a stock of “reassurance” to make them feel better.
OCD and Constantly Needing or Asking For Re-Assurance
Constantly Needing or Asking For Re-Assurance — is also tied to OCD. There are many people that are constantly flooded with obsessive negative thoughts about themselves or others. This lack of confidence in themselves and what they do pushes OCD suffers to constantly need reassurance. Either reassurance that they are doing the right thing, or that they are liked, or re-assured that they are not hated and people are not ALL out to get them. When the need for reassurance becomes obsessive and unhealthy, that is when the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder shows its face.
OCD, Repeating Words, Constant Praying, Words or Songs Stuck in Your Head
Repeating Words, Constant Praying, Words or Songs Stuck in Your Head — Everyone has had a word or a song stuck in your head from time to time; but, when it happens constantly and starts to invade your life, it becomes an obsession. Feeling compelled to rhyme words, or say the same word over and over again is the most common form of this type of obsessive behavior. Reciting prayers, poems, or songs without any control over it can be frustrating to the OCD sufferer.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome — are also very closely linked. The compulsion to repeat certain actions, sounds or words is a form of OCD called Tourette’s Syndrome. While some of the more extreme forms of Tourette’s make people shout vulgar words and obscenities over and over again, it is more common to be compelled to make sounds like clearing your throat, click your tongue or other behaviors. Not only is Tourette’s a severe form of OCD, it is also very closely tied to substance abuse and malnutrition. Alcoholics, addicts, and those with eating disorders may develop OCD or Tourette’s as the body’s response to craving certain nutrients and vitamins (Much like “Cribbing” – when horses chew on their corral rails as a reaction to needing certain nutrients). If you are abusing drugs or alcohol and notice certain obsessive behaviors developing, it is important to reverse these symptoms before they become long-term obsessions or compulsions.
Getting Help for OCD, Compulsive Behaviors and Substance Abuse
At Active Care Recovery, we treat substance abuse from several fronts. First, we take care of the medical needs like detox and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). The mental health needs are treated from a therapy standpoint, along with the mental health needs around OCD and compulsive or obsessive behaviors. Finally, the nutritional deficiencies caused by addiction and substance abuse are treated. This is extremely important for the body to heal and become healthy again. Once the nutritional deficiencies are removed, the body and brain have less of a reason to cry-out in need of something. Once the body and brain are content, the obsessive thoughts and behaviors can be reversed.