The Connection Between OCD and Alcohol

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and alcoholism are two mental health disorders that often co-occur. Learn more about the connection between OCD and alcohol.

The link between OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and alcohol can be complex and multifaceted. While they are two distinct disorders, there is evidence to suggest that individuals with OCD may have a higher risk of developing problems with alcohol.

Research has shown that individuals with OCD are at a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder compared to the general population. Likewise, those with AUD are more likely to experience symptoms of OCD.

One theory for this connection is that individuals with OCD may turn to alcohol as a way to self-medicate and alleviate anxiety caused by their obsessions. After a while, it leads to a dangerous cycle, where alcohol temporarily relieves symptoms but ultimately worsens them in the long run.

On the other hand, people with AUD may develop symptoms of OCD due to the effects of chronic alcohol abuse on the brain. Alcohol can disrupt neurotransmitter levels and alter brain chemistry, potentially leading to obsessive thoughts and behaviors.

How Does Alcohol Affect Someone with OCD?

Alcohol may provide temporary relief from obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors for individuals with OCD. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, slowing down brain activity and reducing feelings of anxiety. However, this relief is short-lived and can ultimately worsen OCD symptoms over time.

Additionally, alcohol use can lower inhibitions and impair judgment, making it more difficult for individuals to resist their compulsions or engage in healthy coping strategies. After a while, this connection can lead to a vicious cycle of using alcohol as a way to temporarily ease OCD symptoms, only to have those symptoms intensify once the effects wear off.

ocd and alcohol

What are the Warning Signs of Co-occurring OCD and Alcohol?

Some warning signs that an individual may be struggling with both OCD and alcohol include:

  • Experiencing intense obsessions or compulsions related to drinking or avoiding drinking
  • Difficulty controlling alcohol intake or feeling unable to stop drinking once started
  • Using alcohol as a way to cope with overwhelming OCD symptoms or distress
  • Neglecting responsibilities and obligations due to alcohol use or OCD rituals
  • Experiencing negative consequences related to alcohol use, such as relationship problems, financial difficulties, or legal issues

It’s important to note that everyone experiences OCD and alcohol differently, and not all individuals will exhibit these warning signs. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be struggling with co-occurring OCD and alcohol, it is crucial to seek professional help for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What is OCD?

OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions can cause intense anxiety and discomfort, leading individuals to engage in compulsive behaviors as a way to alleviate their distress.

Some common obsessions associated with OCD include:

  • Fear of contamination or germs
  • Need for symmetry or order
  • Intrusive thoughts of violence or harm
  • Religious or moral obsessions

On the other hand, compulsions may include repetitive behaviors such as:

  • Excessive hand washing
  • Checking and rechecking locks or appliances
  • Counting, tapping, or repeating words silently
  • Arranging objects in a specific order

OCD can significantly impact an individual’s daily life and relationships if left untreated.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic disease characterized by the excessive consumption of alcohol despite its negative consequences. Individuals with AUD may have a craving for alcohol and struggle to control their drinking habits.

Some common signs of alcoholism include:

  • Drinking alone or in secret
  • Unable to stop drinking once started
  • Neglecting responsibilities due to drinking
  • Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when not consuming alcohol

Alcoholism can have severe consequences on an individual’s physical and mental health, as well as their relationships and overall quality of life.


Does Alcohol Make OCD Worse?

As mentioned earlier, alcohol can temporarily provide relief from OCD symptoms but ultimately worsen them. Alcohol changes brain chemistry and can disrupt the delicate balance of neurotransmitters that play a role in OCD. Additionally, excessive drinking can lead to increased stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate obsessions and compulsions.

Furthermore, individuals with OCD may use alcohol as a way to cope with their disorder, leading to an unhealthy dependence on alcohol. In turn, this can make it even more challenging to address the underlying issues of OCD and effectively manage symptoms.

Treatment for Co-Occurring OCD and Alcoholism

Effective treatment for co-occurring OCD and alcoholism involves addressing both disorders simultaneously, which may include a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups.

Adler Health in Orange County, California, offers specialized treatment programs for co-occurring disorders. Our team of experts understands the complexities of these disorders and how they can intersect, and we tailor our programs to meet each individual’s specific needs.

For individuals with severe co-occurring OCD and alcoholism, our residential program provides a safe and structured environment for individuals to focus on their recovery without the distractions of everyday life.

While medication is not a cure for either OCD or alcoholism, it can be effective in managing symptoms and reducing cravings. Our team of psychiatrists will work closely with each individual to find the correct medication and dosage to address their specific needs.

In an inpatient setting, individuals can receive intensive therapy, medication management, and holistic treatments to address both disorders simultaneously. Inpatient treatment also allows for close monitoring and support from our team of professionals.

Outpatient treatment is a level of care that allows individuals to receive treatment for their co-occurring OCD and alcoholism while still being able to live at home and attend work or school. This type of treatment may be suitable for those with milder symptoms or individuals transitioning from a higher level of care.

Individual therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which an individual works one-on-one with a trained therapist to address personal issues and concerns. It is a collaborative process that aims to improve overall mental health and well-being by exploring thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationships. Individual therapy involves one-on-one sessions with a therapist to work through underlying issues and develop strategies to manage both OCD and alcohol use.

Group therapy is an effective form of psychological treatment that involves a small group of people who have similar mental health concerns. In this type of therapy, the participants meet regularly with a trained therapist to discuss their struggles and receive support from one another. This approach can be beneficial for individuals who are dealing with various issues such as depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, and relationship problems. Group therapy sessions allow individuals to connect with others who understand their struggles, share experiences, and learn from each other in a supportive setting.

We believe in involving loved ones in the treatment process through family therapy by supporting an individual’s recovery journey.

One therapy program that may be beneficial for individuals with OCD and alcohol issues is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. For those struggling with OCD, this can involve identifying triggers and implementing coping strategies to manage obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. In terms of alcohol use, CBT can help individuals recognize their drinking patterns and develop healthier ways to cope with underlying emotions or stressors.

Recovery is Possible

It’s important to remember that recovery is possible for those struggling with co-occurring OCD and alcoholism. With proper treatment and support, it is possible to manage symptoms, maintain sobriety, and improve overall quality of life.

If you or a loved one are struggling with these co-occurring disorders, know that you are not alone. Reach out for help and start your journey towards a healthier and happier life today. Remember, there is always hope for recovery.  So don’t wait any longer – take the first step towards a brighter future!


Adler Health Offers a Dual Diagnosis Program for OCD and Alcohol

Adler Health in Orange County, California, understands that co-occurring disorders require specialized treatment and a comprehensive approach. Our dual diagnosis program addresses both OCD and alcohol use disorder simultaneously to achieve long-lasting recovery.

Co-occurring OCD and alcoholism can be a challenging combination to overcome, but with proper treatment and support, recovery is possible. Seeking help from professionals who understand the complexities of these disorders is crucial in managing symptoms and maintaining sobriety.

Remember, there is no shame in seeking help for mental health issues, including OCD and alcoholism. Seeking help is a sign of strength and courage. If you are someone you know is struggling with OCD and alcohol addiction, contact us today to get started on your journey.