Although some people may use compulsion and addiction somewhat interchangeably, there are some major differences between the two. Just because a person has a compulsion, does not mean that it is an addiction. It can, however, lead to addiction if it is not properly handled. Whereas an addiction is typically fueled by a rewarding or high feeling, this is not usually the case with a compulsion.

A recent article in the Guardian Liberty Voice explains the difference as the following, “An addiction is caused by the brain chemical dopamine. When someone has an addiction, he or she will act upon it in order to reach the state of euphoria that addiction has given them. A compulsion is a behavior that comes from a continuous thought that will not cease until the behavior is acted out.”

Pleasure vs. Relief

Someone who struggles with addiction will generally do whatever they can to satisfy their intense urge to use. They may realize that their substance abuse is dangerous or has a negative impact on their life, but they continue to pursue it. It becomes a part of their life and their routine. In return, however, they get a sense of pleasure. The high they receive from drugs, alcohol, or other substances keeps them going back for more.

With compulsions, the person carries out the behavior to stop the persistent thoughts about doing it. They do not get relief until they have carried through with it. They may recognize that there is no reward or pleasure in their compulsion but they feel the urge to do it anyway or they are left with an unsettled feeling or anxiety.

The drive to fulfill their compulsions can put them at increased risk for addiction depending on what the activity is. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to try to ease their compulsive behavior or the intense urges that they feel. This form of temporary relief can lead to addiction and create even more problems.

Learning to Cope with Addictions and Compulsions

Confronting compulsions and addictions can provide people with alternative ways of meeting these needs. Through therapy and counseling they can determine the root of the problem and learn strategies for coping. If they do have an addiction, seeking treatment from a rehabilitation facility can help them to not only overcome their addiction, but implement necessary changes in their lives to help minimize the risk of relapse.

Some people may have a condition such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as well as challenges with addiction, also known as a dual diagnosis. Treating both of these conditions simultaneously can help them to better understand the role that each plays in their thoughts and behaviors. Then they can create a tailored plan that more effectively meets their needs and helps them to overcome both the compulsions and cravings that they may experience.

If you are struggling with addiction or compulsive behaviors that are heading toward addiction, contact Chapters Capistrano today to see how we can help. We will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that meets your individual needs. Don’t let these challenges stand in the way of living happier, healthier life.

Medical disclaimer:

Chapters Capistrano strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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