Can Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Lead to Substance Abuse?

There is no question that OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and substance abuse are almost directly correlated. Substance abuse is rarely instigated based purely upon the pleasurable effects of the drugs or alcohol. These addictive substances help to “numb” the emotional and psychological stresses of everyday life, which is why they can be easily abused by individuals who do not have very high emotional strength. Let us examine some of the factors which OCD and substance abuse have in common.

Riccardi, Timpano and Schmidt studied how resistant OCD patients are to treatment and behavioral therapy. Many of the patients dropped out of the treatment program prematurely or did not respond favorably to the treatment. Obsessive behavior is a symptom of lack of individual boundaries. These boundaries are not established, which means that they certainly are not enforced. This creates a vague, liquid, psychological environment which is not defined nor maintained by the individual, and therefore is a breeding ground for self doubt, multiple layers of fear, lack of autonomy, and a strong sense of being “out of control” of one’s life.

Substance abuse temporarily fills a need in an individual, whether this is a positive relationship reinforcement or autonomous individualism.

In “Cognitive Therapy of Substance Abuse,” the authors describe how drug and alcohol abuse can do two things: First, it can help the individual to feel more powerful, with a greater sense of personal autonomy, satisfying their need to have separate control over their lives. Second, it can help to “fill the void” of not having a positive relationship with loved ones. In fact, substance abuse is more likely to begin directly following a break in or destruction of a positive relationship. Behaviors which mimic power-obtaining substance abuse are anorexia, bulimia, self-mutilation and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Behaviors which mimic relationship-filling substance abuse are frequent, multiple-partner sexual encounters, depression, anxiety disorders, and sleep disturbances.

This means that obsessive compulsive disorder is not the only psycho-emotional behavior which is correlated to substance abuse. Remember that there are not necessarily thousands of different behavioral reactions to life’s problems, but rather variations of only a few reactions. We use these behaviors to gain love, acceptance, autonomy, belonging, freedom, enjoyment and basic survival.

Considering that there are several strong needs which drug and alcohol abuse can seemingly fill, it is wise to have your employees tested on a regular basis, using high quality testing equipment. With your strong standards within the workplace, you can help your staff to overcome temporary emotional weaknesses by keeping it a safe, ethical environment. Contact CMM Technology for drug and alcohol testing equipment today: +618-9204-2500.

1. “A Case Study Perspective on the Importance of Motivation in the Treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder .” Clinical Case Studies . N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2011.

2. Beck, Aaron T., Fred Wright, Cory Newman, and Bruce Liese. Cognitive therapy of substance abuse . New York: Guilford Press, 1993. Print.

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