There are many effective treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ranging from therapy to self-help and medication. If you think you have OCD, the first person you should see is your family doctor. A physician can determine whether the symptoms that alarm you are due to OCD, another type of anxiety disorder, or another medical condition.
If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, the next step is usually seeing a mental health professional. The practitioners who are most helpful with OCD treatment are those who have training in cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or behavioral therapy, and who are open to using medication if it is needed. You should feel comfortable talking with the mental health professional you choose. If you do not, you should seek help elsewhere. Once you find a mental health professional with whom you are comfortable, work with them as a team to treat your anxiety disorder together.
The treatment for OCD with the most research supporting its effectiveness is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder involves two components: Exposure/ Response Prevention and Cognitive Therapy.
Exposure and response prevention involves repeated exposure to the source of your obsession. Then you are asked to refrain from the compulsive behavior you would usually perform to reduce your anxiety. For example, if you are a compulsive hand washer, you might be asked to touch the door handle in a public restroom and then resist the urge to wash your hands. As you sit with the anxiety, the urge to wash your hands will gradually begin to go away on its own. In this way, you will learn that you don’t need the ritual to get rid of your anxiety – that you have some control over your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
Studies show that exposure and response prevention can actually “retrain” the brain, permanently reducing the occurrence of obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms. This type of OCD therapy can even get rid of compulsive behaviors entirely.
The cognitive therapy component for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) focuses on the catastrophic thoughts and exaggerated sense of responsibility you feel. A big part of cognitive therapy for OCD is teaching you healthy and effective ways of responding to obsessive thoughts, without resorting to compulsive behavior.
In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy, the following treatments are also used for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD):
Medication – Antidepressants are sometimes used in conjunction with therapy for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, medication alone is rarely effective in relieving the symptoms of OCD. Learn more about medications for OCD
Family Therapy – Because OCD often causes problems in family life and social adjustment, family therapy is often advised. Family therapy promotes understanding of the disorder and can help reduce family conflicts. It can also motivate family members and teach them how to help their loved one.
Group Therapy – Group therapy is another helpful obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment. Through interaction with fellow OCD sufferers, group therapy provides support and encouragement and decreases feelings of isolation.
If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), there are many ways you can help yourself if you educate yourself about the disorder. There are many good self-help books about OCD that you can use to learn. If you are in treatment, talk to your therapist and/or doctor. Practice the skills you’ve learned in therapy. Using the techniques you’ve learned in therapy. Actively working to eliminate your obsessions and compulsive behaviors is challenging and requires commitment and daily practice. Join an OCD support group. Many other people struggle with OCD and by participating in a support group you can share your experience and learn from others who are going through the same thing you are. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. Stress relief techniques may help reduce the symptoms of anxiety brought on by OCD. Mindfulness meditation has been found to be particularly helpful to people with OCD. Stay connected to family and friends. It’s important to have a support network you can turn to for help. Involving others in your treatment can help guard against setbacks and keep you motivated. The following information may be helpful to discuss with those closest to you:
Helping a loved one with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) If someone you love has OCD and you want to help them, learn everything you can about the disorder. Share what you learn with your friend or family member and let them know you want to help them feel better.
Remember that your relative is a person with a disorder, but who is healthy and able in many other ways. Focus on the whole person and help them keep a positive attitude. Look at your friend or relative’s obsessive-compulsive behaviors as symptoms, not character flaws. Avoid criticizing your friend or relative for past behaviors or scolding them for current behavior. This will only make things worse. Do everything you can to help your friend or relative feel accepted while he or she is making difficult changes.
Do not allow OCD to take over family life. As much as possible, avoid stress in the home and keep family life normal. Do not participate in your friend or relative’s rituals. In order for people with OCD to make progress, family and friends must resist supporting the rituals because this will only block their progress in treatment. Support doesn’t always have to be serious. People with OCD know their fears are absurd. They can often see the funny side of their symptoms, as long as the humor does not feel judgmental or disrespectful. Humor can the person with OCD become more detached from their symptoms.