Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can feel uncontrollable at times. Because intrusive thoughts are frequently overwhelming to those who cannot focus, relief can be hard to find. There are several methods to handle this kind of anxiety. Mindfulness can be especially helpful.
The Link Between Substance Abuse and OCD
OCD and addiction are two common conditions that go hand-in-hand. Since obsessive thoughts can lead to using substances as a form of relief and addiction can lead to obsessive thoughts, this situation can easily spiral.
OCD is a serious condition that can become all-consuming if not properly treated. Those who try to treat it without professional guidance can turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to calm or minimize their intrusive thoughts. For many individuals suffering from OCD, this method can work, but only for a short period of time.
Symptoms of OCD include:
- fear of germs
- intrusive thoughts
- thoughts of self-harm
- obsessive behavior
- preoccupation with “good” or “bad” numbers
- magical thinking
Obsessive and intrusive thoughts can cause many people to feel unsafe. They may lead to social withdrawal and isolation. Shame and loneliness are common problems that can stem from OCD and also lead to substance abuse.
Addiction-related obsession can happen to people with and without OCD. For those who struggle with OCD in addition to substance abuse, the obsessions that come with addiction may feel worse.
Addiction-related obsessions include:
- frequent thoughts about how good a substance feels
- constant worrying about when and where you will use drugs or alcohol next
- excessive planning around substances
- fear that strangers are keeping tabs on your substance use
- negative self-focused thoughts
The Avoidance Trap
In an attempt to tame obsessive thoughts, many individuals with both substance abuse issues and OCD can choose to avoid certain situations. While some situations may be wise to avoid such as places where there will be substance use, this type of behavior can lead to isolation.
Some of these behaviors can include checking the stove, locks, pockets, etc. The stronger these intrusive compulsions become, the more detailed these behaviors may become. Instead of checking the stove once, the stove might need to be checked several times. Instead of checking to see if the keys are in their rightful place, they may have to be rubbed in a specific way.
These compulsions can be exhausting. Even once they are done, the thoughts may still be there. It’s not uncommon for someone with OCD to complete all of these rituals only to find they must do them again once they are halfway down the street. Sometimes, those who experience particularly strong obsessive thoughts, prefer to avoid leaving the house.
Social interactions may become strained. Many people find intrusive thoughts to be disturbing and do not want to see others when this is happening. In extreme cases, OCD may get in the way of working or a relationship. Avoidance tactics, like substance abuse, can be especially appealing for their efficacy. Although it may work for a short period of time, these coping strategies often increase the condition.
Mindfulness For OCD
Mindfulness can help treat a wide variety of obsessive thoughts including ones related to substance abuse. For relief from unrelenting, intrusive, thoughts, learning how to focus while managing anxiety is key.
Mindfulness incorporates many techniques geared toward quieting the mind. By paying attention to the present moment, mindfulness can allow individuals to live in a nonjudgemental way. Noticing and accepting what’s happening in the moment is a way to let go of criticism.
Common Mindfulness Techniques include:
- language focus
Meditation is a well-known tool for mindfulness. By focusing on the breath, individuals can learn to tune out what’s going on around them. Meditation can be practiced in a sitting position, lying down, or even walking. The important part of meditating has to do with concentrating on the minute details of the moment. Meditation can reduce anxiety not only during the practice itself but throughout the rest of the day as well.
Exercise is a way of shifting attention toward the body instead of the mind. Exercise can release endorphins while physically removing one’s self from an environment that may be unhealthy. Yoga is a specific form of exercise that combines both the breath and the body to create a rhythmic type of meditation.
Diet plays an important role in how the mind and bodywork together. Many people with alcohol or drug use disorder do not have the energy to focus on a healthy diet. By eating well-balanced meals, energy levels can be balanced throughout the day.
Focusing on language can be a critical part of easing obsessive thoughts. By shifting negative language to neutral wording, judgment is less likely to occur. Those with OCD can often feel depressed and lack self-confidence or esteem. Learning how to eliminate negative, critical, thoughts can ease this condition.
For more information about OCD and substance abuse treatment, we can help. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day and can help at any time. If you’re ready to get started, please give us a call at 833-610-1174.