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OCD and Alcohol

by pong
by pong

As many of us already know, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a disease of doubt, fueled by uncertainty. But in some ways, certain aspects of OCD can also be viewed as an addiction. In this post, I talk about Jon Hershfield’s description of reassurance-seeking behaviors:

If reassurance were a substance, it would be considered right up there with crack cocaine. One is never enough, a few makes you want more, tolerance is constantly on the rise, and withdrawal hurts. In other words, people with OCD and related conditions who compulsively seek reassurance get a quick fix, but actually worsen their discomfort in the long-term.

So are those with OCD more prone to addictions? Are they more likely to become dependent on alcohol, or illegal drugs, than those without the disorder?

I thought it was an interesting question, so I decided to research it a bit, focusing mainly on alcohol addiction. I found a lot of articles stating that yes, those with OCD are more prone to becoming alcoholics than the general population. Statistics varied, hovering around the twenty-five percent mark. These articles were full off anecdotal evidence, but I didn’t come across any scientific research on the subject. So who knows?

It is not surprising that people who are suffering greatly in general might resort to alcohol to dull the pain. Many of us know people who “self-medicate” or we might even take part in this ourselves. For those with OCD who self-medicate, alcohol can indeed take the edge off the anxiety they’re feeling and even help free them from obsessive thoughts.

But….once the alcohol has worn off, anxiety as well as obsessions are likely to return with a vengeance, leaving the previously “self-medicated” person with not only worsening OCD, but an alcohol problem as well. Another thing to consider is that many people with OCD take medication for the disorder, and alcohol is known to interact with these medications, including SSRIs.

I’m fortunate that my son Dan never resorted to self-medicating. In fact, he went in the totally opposite direction. He does not drink alcohol at all. When I once asked him about it, he told me that when his OCD was severe, and he was overly medicated as well, he felt totally out of control of his life. It was a horrible feeling, and he hated it. Why would he drink and willingly put himself in that position again? He said he realized there were a lot of things in his life that were out of his control, but he was going to do his best to control the things he could. Ah, good ‘ol Serenity Prayer.

Makes sense to me.



OCD and Alcohol

Janet Singer

I am a mom whose son was completely debilitated by severe OCD in 2008. Thankfully he made a remarkable recovery and is now living life to the fullest. I've since become an advocate for OCD awareness with the goal of spreading the word that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. I am the author of Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery (Rowman & Littlefield, January 2015) and have my own blog about OCD at There truly is hope for all those who suffer from this insidious disorder!

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APA Reference
Singer, J. (2016). OCD and Alcohol. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jun 2016
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