OCD and Addiction: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Addiction itself is an obsessive compulsive disorder.

Bipolar Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and addiction may seem like separate issues, but they're often intertwined. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the depths of OCD and addiction, shedding light on their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. We're here to help at Solace Asia, a leading rehabilitation center dedicated to providing solace and solutions to those grappling with these challenges.

Struggling with OCD and addiction? Don't bear the burden alone. Contact Solace Asia today.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by recurring, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). According to the World Health Organization, OCD affects about 2-3% of the world's population.

These thoughts and behaviours become so excessive in nature that they start interfering with one’s daily life. Often, these thoughts are irrational but a person suffering from OCD will not be able to resist thinking about them all the time. Most of these thoughts cause unwanted fear and anxiety in the person. Hand washing, cleaning, organising, and counting items are few of the behaviours a person compulsively does all the time if they suffer from this disease.

Some people believe that if they don’t carry out these tasks, someone near them will be harmed. Performing these tasks gives the person relief. But this is only short lived for panic and anxiety return soon after they stop, sometimes even stronger.

Some of these common symptoms include:

  • Constant fear of germs/dirt
  • Wanting things to be in a particular/perfect order
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Repeatedly checking on things (checking if the gas stove is off, etc.)
  • Obsession with numbers that are considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’
  • Counting compulsively
  • Fear of falling sick/loved ones getting sick
  • Fear of being harmed/loved ones being harmed
  • Unwanted taboo thoughts involving religion or sex.
  • Aggressive thoughts towards self or others.  

Obsessions and Compulsions

Obsessions are intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety, while compulsions are behaviors performed to alleviate that anxiety. For instance, a fear of germs (obsession) may lead to excessive hand-washing (compulsion).

Symptoms of OCD

OCD symptoms vary widely, but they all revolve around the cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Let's delve into some common ones.

Common OCD Symptoms are:

  • Excessive cleaning: This could be due to a fear of germs or contamination.
  • Arranging items: Some people with OCD feel a need to arrange items in a particular order or pattern.
  • Repeated checking: This could be repeatedly checking doors to ensure they're locked or obsessively checking the stove.

These symptoms can significantly disrupt daily life, leading to distress and even functional impairment.

The Link Between OCD and Addiction

OCD and addiction often go hand in hand. It is common for people with OCD to turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. When someone is anxious or scared, drugs or alcohol can make them feel that they are free from their obsessive thoughts. Unfortunately, these thoughts come back right after the effects of these substances wear off. In-fact, a lot of illegal drugs can worsen the symptoms of OCD, allowing this illness to completely control a person’s life.

The distress caused by OCD symptoms can lead individuals to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, leading to addiction.

Dual Diagnosis

When someone has both OCD and a substance use disorder, it's known as a dual diagnosis. Treating both conditions simultaneously is crucial for effective recovery.

The Vicious Cycle

OCD and addiction can feed off each other, creating a cycle that's hard to break. But with the right treatment and support, recovery is possible.

OCD can fuel addiction, and addiction can exacerbate OCD, creating a vicious cycle that's hard to break. According to a study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, about 27% of people with OCD also struggle with a substance use disorder.

Having OCD will interfere with almost every part of a person’s life. It will become extremely tough for them to maintain personal relationships,  their job, and to follow hobbies that they are passionate about. They might also face clinical anxiety, paranoia, depression, and eating disorders. On top of this, if they use drugs or alcohol to self medicate, they will most likely face the following emotional and social consequences of substance addiction:

  • Financial difficulties
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be interesting
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • A need to hide  addiction from friends or employers
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Thoughts of suicide

Causes of OCD and Addiction

Addiction involves changes in the brain's reward system. Over time, the brain becomes wired to crave the addictive substance, making it difficult to quit.

OCD and addiction don't have a single cause. They're usually the result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

Genetic Factors

Both OCD and addiction have a genetic component. According to the American Psychiatric Association, individuals with a first-degree relative with OCD are at a higher risk of developing the disorder.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors such as stress, trauma, or major life changes can trigger OCD or addiction in individuals who are genetically predisposed.

Psychological Factors

Psychological factors, including personality traits and other mental health disorders, can also contribute to the development of OCD and addiction.

How is OCD Diagnosed?

Diagnosing OCD involves a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional. They'll typically use tools like the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) to assess the severity of symptoms.

Early diagnosis can lead to more effective treatment. Don't hesitate to reach out to our professionals at Solace Asia.

Treatment Options for OCD and Addiction

People with OCD live with it for years before they decide to get it treated. All this while, they may have used alcohol or drugs to help them overcome the symptoms. The sooner OCD is detected, the sooner sufferers and their family can start addressing the obsessive thoughts and behaviours with appropriate treatment instead of using illegal substances.

The occurrence of both the disorders in the same person makes treatment challenging. OCD patients find it very difficult to focus and are often very restless and fidgety. Hence, they would need need  shorter therapy sessions.  They might feel very nervous to be a part of group therapy sessions since not every patient who comes for therapy would be suffering from both of the illnesses.

In such cases, a dual diagnosis procedure should be applied, in which patients must receive specialised care from professionals who understand how these two illnesses overlap and react with each other. Those who suffer from substance abuse and OCD will rarely speak up about their situation, so the involvement of friends and family is crucial. Intervention is very necessary for these patients to get the help they need.

Treatment for OCD and addiction often involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and holistic approaches.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) are two effective forms of psychotherapy for OCD. CBT helps individuals change negative thought patterns, while ERP involves gradually facing fears without resorting to compulsions.


Certain medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help manage OCD symptoms. For addiction, medications can help manage withdrawal, reduce cravings, and treat co-occurring conditions.

Holistic Approaches

Holistic approaches such as mindfulness, yoga, and a healthy diet can complement traditional treatments, helping individuals manage stress and improve overall well-being.

How Solace Asia Can Help With OCD and Addiction

At Solace Asia, we offer a range of treatment programs tailored to the unique needs of individuals struggling with OCD and addiction. Our team of experts uses evidence-based treatments to help our clients overcome these challenges and reclaim their lives.

Ready to start your journey to recovery? Get in touch with Solace Asia today.


Understanding and treating OCD and addiction is crucial to improving quality of life and preventing further complications. Remember, it's never too late to seek help, and recovery is always possible.

More Co Occurring Disorders:

Why Choose Us?

Our values make us the best addiction treatment facility in the region.


We offer addiction treatment services to clients and their families. As the first private residential rehab in Malaysia, we set the benchmark for ethical treatment.


We have the ability to provide treatment not only in English, but also Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin, Cantonese and even Arabic! We are truly local yet global.


All our treatment has the Asian culture embedded in our modalities. We are 100% locally owned and operated agency, every center in Asia are owned by expatriates.


We don't only do Addiction Treatment, we also teach it! We are a NAADAC Approved Education Provider. We are also on Udemy, the worlds largest education platform.

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