What Is the Relationship Between Compulsions and Addiction?

What Is the Relationship Between Compulsions and Addiction?

If you are concerned about your own substance use issue or that of your loved one, understanding more about what causes it and what symptoms might co-occur can help you take steps forward. This is especially important for people who experience or observe compulsions that might accompany addiction. Compulsion and addiction have an intertwined relationship that can become mutually reinforcing. 

According to research in the broader medical community, among those who seek treatment for compulsive disorders, one-quarter also suffer from addiction. Both compulsive behaviors and addiction can leave negative impacts on one’s physiological and mental health. They also unravel interpersonal relationships at work and in family life. Compulsion paired with addiction can make life so difficult. Learning about their complicated relationship is important to care for yourself and your loved one.

Are They the Same Kind of Disorder?

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “addiction” is defined as “a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences.” In the same definition entry, it also mentions that “people with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.” Compulsion is embedded within the broader issue of addiction. 

A compulsion is a repetitive behavior that has no rational motivation. It is often displayed as an intense urge to do something eccentric to alleviate anxiety. Such behaviors include chronic gambling, excessive spending, hoarding, excessive cleaning, repetitive checking of door locks, etc. Usually, a compulsion is driven by certain fear that is irrational or illogical to ordinary people.

Although these two categories of health issues may overlap or inter-relate, compulsions can be differentiated from addiction by the distinction of pleasure-seeking. People with compulsive disorders do not feel the urge to engage in behaviors that others may deem odd to seek pleasure. Those with addiction do seek pleasure from substance use, although that level of pleasure may decrease over time. Another distinction between the two is that a person with compulsion is usually aware that the behavior is excessive. A person with addiction either does not recognize or denies that their behavior is problematic. 

Scientists have found that people who develop severe substance use disorder may also suffer from compulsion. Many believe that this overlap has to do with chronic addiction changing how the brain works, which leads to compulsive disorders and a myriad of other behavioral issues. Severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), if untreated, may lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

Are They Treated Differently?

The reason many people who have compulsive disorders resort to drugs and alcohol is that coping with the obsessions is exhausting, and substance use can provide some short-term relief. The social isolation caused by compulsion may also increase one’s risk of substance use. Because compulsion and addiction often overlap, especially among young people, it is most effective to treat them simultaneously. Still, although addiction can lead to chronic disease, compulsions can be effectively treated with medication prescribed by a health professional. 

Many detox treatment and recovery centers treat both addiction and compulsive behavior through therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), group counseling such as a 12-step group, and medication when necessary. But because both compulsions and addiction encompass a wide range of behaviors, each case requires a specialized assessment and customized treatment plan. 

How Is COVID-19 Changing Compulsion and Addiction Treatment?

Public health measures to combat COVID-19 may have worsened the epidemic of compulsive disorders and addiction in America. Triggers such as social isolation, the expectation to constantly wash and sanitize hands, loss of loved ones, constant fluctuation of rules, and fear of the unknown can all cause an uptick in compulsive disorders among the general population. 

Unfortunately, more young people will likely develop compulsive disorders during these years. Access to drugs and alcohol has not been limited because of shutdowns. All these demands necessitate updated treatment measures to address compulsion and addiction. For example, as the need for telehealth services increases, some treatment centers expanded their online treatment platforms to reach out to more young people. 

If you battle addiction and compulsion and are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, the key is to find health care professionals who specialize in treating both disorders. If you have started treatment and are worried about maintaining sobriety or relapse triggered by recent events due to COVID-19, seek help from your counselors. They are positioned to offer you the best treatment adjustments.

Compulsion and addiction can leave one feeling trapped, helpless, and alone. Together, they can become a mutually reinforcing cycle. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you or a loved one are struggling with compulsions and an addiction, Laguna Shores Recovery can help you find the best treatment and therapy plan. You can find hope to recover and take control of your life. Or you can help a loved one regain confidence. We understand the struggles of compulsions and addiction. As a quiet location from the stress of everyday life, Laguna Shores Recovery affords you a full medical and pet-friendly facility and staff with experienced health professionals and therapists. They have helped many people navigate detox treatment and recovery. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we believe in proactive intervention and a holistic approach to sustainable recovery. We also offer cognitive and behavioral therapies, family relationship programs, and 12-step groups to assist your recovery. Call us at (954) 329-1118