Individuals in treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) experience compulsive thoughts. In most cases, these thoughts focus on substance misuse, cravings, or past trauma. However, in some cases, compulsions are entirely unrelated to substance misuse. For example, process addictions like gambling — heavily connected to compulsions — can interfere with a person’s mental health during and after treatment. Newport Beach Recovery Center uses evidence-based therapies to help clients cope with compulsions and intrusive thoughts during rehabilitation.
What Are Compulsive Thoughts and Behaviors?
Compulsive thoughts can cause mild to severe emotional distress. In most cases, they involve repeated intrusive thoughts or an obsession with a specific activity. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person . . . feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought.” In many cases, the behaviors are irrational or unnecessary. However, they bring emotional relief to people who do them. For example, someone with a germ phobia may compulsively use hand sanitizer anytime they touch a public surface.
Some examples of common compulsions include:
- Repeatedly checking locks before going to bed or leaving the house
- Excessive hand washing
- Counting, often in specific increments
- Repeated tapping or other fidgety movements
- Thinking or speaking a repeated word or phrase
Compulsive thoughts and behaviors can involve almost any idea, thought, or behavior, and they do not always cause severe distress. However, individuals with SUD and co-occurring mental health issues have a higher risk of developing maladaptive behaviors related to compulsions. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and process addictions are common dual diagnoses. Side effects of severe compulsions can interfere with recovery and increase the risk of relapse.
The Dangers of Non-Chemically Addictive Compulsions
Non-addictive compulsions can affect a person’s ability to function. Additionally, non-addictive compulsions sometimes lead to physical dependency and mental addiction if left untreated. The seemingly innocent nature of non-addictive compulsions makes them dangerous for individuals in recovery. Some people may find themselves replacing substances misused with “safer” alternatives that end up causing the same disruptive behavioral issues.
The dangers of non-addictive compulsions include:
- Increased risk of dependency
- Relationship issues caused by obsessive preoccupation with the compulsion
- Decreased focus on recovery
Non-chemically addictive compulsions can become addictive behaviors if you do not monitor them and learn to recognize warning signs. According to Frontiers in Psychiatry, “[C]ompulsive behavior can be understood in terms of persistent patterns of failed decision-making.” You can protect yourself from harmful side effects by learning to problem-solve and make healthier decisions. Treatment programs like the ones offered at Newport Beach Recovery Center provide essential skill development and trauma therapy. Our methods can help you overcome compulsions and avoid adverse side effects.
Warning Signs of Dangerous Compulsive Thoughts and Behaviors
You might require additional mental health treatment if compulsions interfere with your ability to function or threaten your sobriety. Below are some warning signs that might indicate you need help coping with compulsions:
- Frequent bad judgment calls
- Difficulty making good choices
- Obsessive thoughts, behaviors, or routines
- Thinking, saying, or doing something to avoid anxiety or compulsions
- Frequently make changes to your routine to accommodate the compulsion
- Relationship issues caused by obsessions and compulsions
If you notice one or more of the signs listed above, you should talk to someone on our mental health team. In some cases, compulsions can worsen symptoms of SUD.
Internet, Phone, and Computer Addictions
Process addictions and compulsions involving technology have become more commonplace within the last few decades. Almost everyone owns multiple smart devices that control many aspects of their life. Unfortunately, it can be easy to fall into harmful routines involving smart devices. Compulsive behaviors that feature technology can include:
- Online gambling
- Social media
- Excessively tracking the news
Almost any behavior can turn into a compulsion. If you find yourself spending an excessive amount of time doing any one thing on your smart devices, you might want to reach out for mental health assistance. Phones, computers, and gaming devices can be locked during specific time periods, giving you an easy way to avoid the issue. In addition, during treatment at facilities like Newport Beach Recovery Center, you will have less access to these devices, which can help you establish healthy boundaries with technology and the internet.
Treating Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders During Recovery
Individuals with SUD have a higher risk of developing co-occurring mental health issues like OCD. Compulsions, intrusive thoughts, and addictive behaviors can complicate your treatment and ongoing recovery. At Newport Beach Recovery Center, we offer evidence-based treatments for individuals with dual diagnoses. Our team will ensure you learn vital coping skills to help you avoid developing process addictions or disruptive compulsions. Simultaneous and integrated treatment can provide relief from mental health symptoms during rehabilitation. If you are in aftercare or early recovery, we can provide you with programs and services to help you stay on track if you begin to experience compulsions.
Compulsive thoughts and behaviors can indicate co-occurring mental health issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, compulsions are also a symptom of substance misuse, and many people recovering from SUD struggle with these thoughts and behaviors. It’s important to seek help that will examine your mental health comprehensively. Treatment programs at Newport Beach Recovery Center care about treating all your co-occurring mental health problems. We can provide you with the tools and essential skills to manage compulsions. You can maintain positive mental health and sobriety by practicing mindfulness and other coping techniques. To learn more about our services and programs, call us today at (888) 850-0363. We can help you heal and find healthier ways to cope with compulsive thoughts and behaviors.