What is OCD? What are Signs and Symptoms of OCD?

OCD is an abbreviation for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is a mental health condition that is a specific subtype of anxiety disorder, which ranges from mild to severe and can affect individuals of any age.

OCD is differentiated from other anxiety disorders by the presence of certain symptoms, which include obsessions (intrusive anxiety-related thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive, excessive behaviors that provide the individual with a sense of relief with regards to the obsession, even though these behaviors may not have any actual bearing on the outcome of the concern and may cause harm to the individual).

Some common presentations of OCD often relate to: 

  • Safety issues (for example, an individual might have obsessive thoughts about a home break-in, and find relief in performing a ritualized series of locking and relocking exterior doors in excess of what is adequate);
  • Cleanliness (a preoccupation with feeling “dirty” and washing and/or sanitizing hands excessively and without actual germ exposure as to cause skin damage);
  • Superstition (going to excessive lengths to avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks, and engaging in an elaborate ritual to “negate” or “make up for” the action in the event that it does happen).

These individuals may experience severe distress if they are prevented from engaging in the compulsive behaviors that provide them with a sense of relief with relation to the obsessions.

OCD and Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol

OCD can cause severe distress and functional impairments for affected individuals, and in serious cases, can lead to adverse social, employment, financial, and health consequences.

Affected individuals’ obsessions may be so severe that they are unwilling to leave their home or engage in daily living. Because of the severity of these symptoms, these individuals may also be less likely to seek help as they may not realize that there is help available for this condition.

Drugs and alcohol may become a means by which OCD sufferers are able to somewhat stifle the intensity of their obsessions and the urgency of the related compulsions. However, substance use only eases the discomfort of OCD temporarily. Over time, the degree of relief as well as the duration of relief diminish and individuals find themselves still battling the debilitating symptoms of OCD as well as the challenges of addiction.

How to Recover from OCD and Addiction Through Rehab

Comprehensive substance abuse treatment for individuals with OCD includes educational components to assist affected persons with understanding OCD, OCD symptoms, and how substance use inhibits their long-term ability to recover from this condition.

Dual-diagnosis treatment helps patients develop insight and coping skills to more effectively address the difficult symptoms of OCD that may have contributed to their alcohol or drugs abuse.

Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 14, 2022