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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities Near Me

Author: Jen Chichester, M.A. English, M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder in which someone experiences anxiety and unreasonable fears stemming from their repetitious thoughts.1 People with OCD engage in compulsive, repetitive acts like handwashing or counting. This offers temporary relief but ultimately becomes disruptive to their everyday life. People who develop symptoms in childhood or adolescence often use substances as a coping mechanism to deal with the symptoms of OCD.

This kind of self-medication in the form of substance abuse can quickly spiral, resulting in the diagnosis of a substance use disorder (SUD), commonly known as addiction. If you’re struggling with OCD and substance abuse, it’s important to remember that there is help out there. By recognizing the signs and symptoms of OCD and knowing how to find a dual diagnosis treatment center near you can help you find recovery.

What is OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), OCD is characterized by the presence of obsessions or compulsions.2 Obsessions are persistent and recurring urges, thoughts, or images that a person does not want. Compulsions are the repetitious actions or behaviors a person feels they must perform in accordance with rules that are stringently applied. Other obsessive-compulsive and related disorders include body dysmorphic disorder (in which obsessions and compulsions are restricted to one’s appearance) and trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder).

Common symptoms of OCD include:3

  • Urges, images, or thoughts that are recurrent and persistent; they cause disruption, distress, or anxiety.
  • Attempts made by a person to subdue these urges, images, or thoughts through action or thought (i.e., by enacting a compulsion).
  • Repetitive behaviors (e.g., handwashing, counting) or mental acts (e.g., counting, silently repeating words) centered around a theme.
  • Mental actions and behaviors attempt to reduce distress but are either excessive or not grounded in reality.
  • Recognition by a person that their compulsions or obsessions are unrealistic or excessive.
  • Obsessions and compulsions consume more than 1 hour per day or cause impairment or distress in major aspects of life (e.g., work, school, social settings).

There is a personality disorder located in Cluster C called obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD).4 Its characteristics include a strict adherence to rules, an overwhelming need for order, a sense of righteousness about how things are “supposed to be done,” and an unwillingness to hand over responsibility to others.5 A person with OCPD can be excessively devoted to work to the point where it impairs their family and social lives, and their moral and ethical codes are highly rigid. Unlike those with OCD, people with OCPD lack insight into their behaviors and believe their way is best and correct. People with OCPD do not typically see themselves as needing treatment since everyone else should be adhering to their rules. This can make it difficult for individuals to receive appropriate diagnoses and treatments.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is the repeated use of substances despite negative consequences. The DSM-5 outlines 10 distinctive classes of drugs that may be abused. These substances include alcohol, hallucinogens, opioids, tobacco, and other substances. In all of these conditions, the brain’s reward system and its activation pose a central dilemma. For some people, the rewarding feeling they get from using drugs might be so intense that they neglect their work, families, schooling, and social lives in favor of taking it. They engage in risky behaviors just to acquire their substance of choice. As a result, substance abuse may escalate to the point where it can be diagnosed as a substance use disorder (SUD).

The DSM-5 has eleven criteria used in the diagnosis for substance use disorder:2

  • Use of the substance is becoming hazardous.
  • Interpersonal problems due to substance use.
  • Neglecting major roles in life due to substance use.
  • It has led to legal problems.
  • Stopping substance results in withdrawal.
  • Tolerance to the substance.
  • Using larger amounts of the substance than before.
  • Tried to quit using the substance several times.
  • Spending a lot of time using the substance or obtaining it.
  • The substance is causing other psychical or psychological problems.
  • Giving up activities to do the substance.

If you have more than 2 of these in a 12-month period, then you may meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. The severity of one’s SUD may increase with the number of criteria met, with mild cases meeting 2 criteria and severe cases meeting 6 or more criteria.2

Connection between OCD and Substance Abuse

OCD and substance abuse commonly occur together.6 One study found that participants with OCD and substance use disorder (SUD) had OCD symptoms that preceded the onset of their SUD.7 Participants with SUDs had higher rates of suicide attempts and psychiatric hospitalizations than those who only reported OCD symptoms. One of their most unanticipated findings was that juvenile-onset OCD was independently linked with elevated lifetime rates of alcohol use disorders.7

Co-occurring disorders—also known as comorbidities—are the existence of 2 mental health conditions at the same time. It is unclear what causes co-occurring mental health disorder to arise. Research suggests it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is also suggested that co-occurring mental health disorders can creative a feedback loop that leads to the development of a substance use disorder. Since OCD symptoms can be difficult to treat, individuals who struggle with the condition may seek to self-medicate with substances. Those who use substances like alcohol and drugs to cope with the symptoms of PTSD may be making themselves vulnerable to substance abuse and addiction. While the exact causes of co-occurring mental health disorders aren’t fully understood, research suggests that dual diagnosis treatment is the best way to treat these conditions.

Rehab Programs and Options for Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Searching for the best treatment for OCD will likely lead you to multiple models, though most will be rooted in dual diagnosis treatment. Dual Diagnosis treatment seeks to treat both substance abuse and any co-occurring mental health disorders simultaneously.  Studies show that dual diagnosis treatment can be effective in those struggling with co-occurring mental health disorders.

Dual diagnosis treatment programs are led by specialists in substance abuse and mental health treatment who work together as a team to meet a person’s needs. Psychotherapy can be used in conjunction with medications, and therapy emphasizes the person making their own choices. Of course, personalized treatment plans can hone in on ways the care team can adequately meet a person’s needs, and it can include the involvement of loved ones as support.10

Specific treatment tracks will likely vary based on an individual’s needs. When dealing with OCD and alcohol abuse or abuse of any other substance, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment method preferred by many counselors.8 As the APA outlines, CBT is a well-researched method that emphasizes 3 core principles: 8

  • Psychological problems are partially centered on unhelpful or faulty ways of thinking.
  • Psychological problems are also partially based on learned patterns of behavior that are not helpful.
  • People with psychological problems can cultivate more helpful ways of coping to relieve symptoms and enhance their daily living.

In other words, CBT involves changing your thought patterns. This can be done in several ways, including learning problem-solving skills and recognizing distortions in the way you think followed by knowing how to reevaluate them.

How to find the best OCD treatment centers near me

If you’re struggling with OCD and substance abuse and are searching for treatment, it’s important to look for dual diagnosis treatment centers. Even just those with OCD or OCPD alone can benefit from an intensive treatment program. Finding a center that offers personalized treatment plans is essential.

Depending on your situation, you may be comfortable searching for OCD treatment centers near you, or you may seek to attend treatment out of state. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options. Attending OCD and substance abuse treatment near your home can allow you to stay connected with friends, family, loved ones, and existing support networks. However, the familiar environment may present you with common triggers that can complicate your treatment an recovery. Attending treatment out-of-state can give you a fresh, new environment, but being so far from home can be isolating as well. It’s important to weight these options carefully before committing to treatment at a given facility.

When you’re ready to begin your search in earnest, there are dozens of online treatment directories to help you find the best OCD treatment centers.

Does insurance cover bipolar and substance abuse treatment?

Insurance coverage for OCD treatment will vary widely depending on many factors. Where you live, the intensity of treatment, how long you will be there, and your specific plan details can all affect the extent of your OCD treatment coverage. Federal parity laws have helped close the gap of covering mental health and addiction care at the same level as physical health care. Namely, the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act improves coverage for people seeking mental health and addiction treatment.9

To determine the extent of your coverage, reach out to your insurance provider or check your coverage online.


  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Obsessive Compulsive disorder.
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Publishing.
  3. National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Obsessive compulsive disorder.
  4. International OCD Foundation. (2010). Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD).
  5. Rowland, T.A., Jainer, A.K., & Panchal, R. (2017). Living with obsessional personality. BJ Psych Bulletin, 41(6), 366-367.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance use disorders. Advisory, 15(3).
  7. Mancebo, M. C., Grant, J. E., Pinto, A., Eisen, J. L., & Rasmussen, S. A. (2009). Substance use disorders in an obsessive compulsive disorder clinical sample. Journal of anxiety disorders, 23(4), 429–435.
  8. American Psychiatric Association. (2017). What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
  9. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2021). Mental health parity.

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