Men suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) know just how debilitating the effects of this mental illness truly are. Unfortunately, OCD often goes undiagnosed, and in an attempt to manage their OCD, many men will turn to drugs and alcohol for relief.
When you have OCD, addiction treatment becomes more complicated. But by educating yourself about OCD, you are taking the first step toward regaining control over your life.
What Is OCD
OCD is a mental health disorder that causes a person to become trapped in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions:
- Obsessions take the form of unwanted and involuntary thoughts and urges that spark powerful feelings of distress.
- Compulsions are the behaviors that OCD sufferers take part in to manage or lessen the thoughts that cause their distress.
OCD can be difficult to identify in men. After all, everyone experiences troubling thoughts from time to time. OCD, however, takes these universal emotions and amplifies them to the point of mental illness.
Signs and Symptoms of OCD
While OCD was once considered to be an anxiety disorder, the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has classified OCD in a separate category of mental illnesses that involve obsessive and repetitive fears and behaviors.
However, fear and anxiety still play a major role in OCD. Some of the most common sources of fear and anxiety among men suffering from OCD include:
- Fear of becoming ill, getting injured or dying
- Fear of loved ones becoming ill, getting injured or dying
- Fear of germs or being unclean
- Fear of causing harm to others
- Fear of upsetting a higher power
- Fear of losing personal objects
- Intrusive sexual thoughts
- A need to maintain perfect order or symmetry
- Superstitious beliefs
Men suffering from OCD will often turn to ritualistic behaviors in order to calm their fears and anxieties. But because their fears arise so frequently and are often only loosely grounded in reality, such behaviors only offer temporary relief and must be repeated over and over again.
Common ritualistic behaviors among men with OCD include:
- Excessive hand washing, showering, etc.
- Arranging objects in specific patterns
- Obsessively checking one’s work for errors
- Obsessively dwelling on and reviewing one’s actions
- Compulsive hoarding or collecting objects of little value
- Behavioral tics such as touching a doorknob five times before turning it, or tying and untying one’s shoes multiple times before feeling satisfied.
The Link Between OCD and Substance Abuse
Many addiction treatment specialists have observed that among patients with a mental illness and substance use dual diagnosis, OCD is one of the most commonly observed psychological disorders.
Men suffering from OCD are usually aware of the fact their fears and compulsions are irrational. However, this doesn’t make it any easier for them to control their ritualistic behaviors on their own. This internal conflict creates extreme levels of mental distress. It should come as no surprise that many men will turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate the symptoms of their OCD.
While drug and alcohol use may be an effective short-term strategy to control the anxiety resulting from the symptoms of OCD, it doesn’t take long for this pattern of self-medication to transform into a powerful chemical addiction.
In fact, the Journal of Anxiety Disorders released a study showing that out of 323 American adults suffering from OCD, 27 percent met the diagnostic criteria for a co-occurring substance use disorder. Because OCD and addiction feed off one another, patients suffering from co-occurring OCD and substance abuse need a comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment program that includes intensive OCD rehab therapy.
Types of OCD
OCD can manifest itself in an endless number of ways. However, experts have identified five primary subtypes of the disorder. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that many men will experience different combinations of these OCD subtypes at the same time.
Men suffering from this type of OCD experience frequent thoughts about potential harm coming to themselves or others. Men with this type of OCD will frequently become obsessed with so-called “checking rituals” in an attempt to control their anxiety.
For example, a father may constantly dwell on thoughts of his child becoming seriously ill, leading him to excessively take the child’s temperature, schedule frequent check-ups, inspect the child for signs of illness, etc.
With this type of OCD, intrusive thoughts are centered on feelings of being unclean. For instance, simply shaking hands with a stranger may produce an overwhelming sense of contamination. The resulting anxiety can only be relieved by the OCD sufferer quickly washing his or her hands.
While it’s normal to feel dirty and want to clean up from time to time, men with this type of OCD have been known to wash their hands until they bleed, and some even scrub their bodies raw with abrasive substances like steel wool.
Symmetry, Ordering and Counting Obsessions
Men with this subtype of OCD experience an overwhelming need to arrange objects, thoughts or words until they feel “just right.” This may manifest as arranging books or CDs in perfect alphabetical order, repeating words or phrases until they sound perfect, or even chewing food an equal number of times on the left and right side of the mouth.
Failing to maintain perfect order can lead to feelings ranging from a mild sense of unease to the fear of impending doom.
Violent, Religious or Sexual Obsessions
This type of OCD does not always lead to outwardly visible compulsions. Many men with this subtype of OCD are constantly battling intrusive thoughts about upsetting subjects. For example, a man might constantly imagine himself attacking strangers while in public, and attempts to stifle these thoughts only causes them to arise more frequently.
Hoarding has recently become recognized as a type of OCD. Men suffering from hoarding disorder experience extreme anxiety and discomfort at the thought of throwing away even the most useless items. Usually, the anxiety centers on the fear that the item may be needed later, or that the item has some imagined sentimental value.
Common Myths About OCD
Myth: OCD primarily affects women.
Research conducted by the International OCD Foundation has shown that this disorder affects both men and women at the same rate.
Myth: OCD is not treatable.
Through intensive OCD therapy and proper medication, anyone can overcome their struggles with obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors.
Myth: If you are a neat freak, you have OCD.
A fixation on maintaining cleanliness and order does not necessarily mean a person has OCD. In order to be diagnosed with OCD, a person’s obsessions and compulsions must:
- Cause significant and prolonged distress.
- Consume excessive amounts of time and mental energy.
- Negatively impact one’s ability to function in day-to-day life.
Myth: Men with OCD just need to relax.
Not only is this common myth untrue, but it also makes it harder for OCD sufferers to recognize their need for professional treatment.
Getting the Help You Need
If you or a man in your life is suffering from a co-occurring substance use and mental health disorder, the best way to achieve lasting recovery is by getting help for both problems at the same time through a dual diagnosis treatment program.
Reflections Recovery Center specializes in dual diagnosis treatment for men, and our unique approach to holistic recovery has led to our being positioned among the best addiction treatment providers in Arizona. Make note that we accept male clients not only from our home state, but also from all around the country.
Keep exploring our site to discover how we can help you or your loved one achieve a life free from both OCD and substance abuse.