Hand-washing and tidying can be symptoms of OCD, but they are far from the whole story. By definition, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder experience two key symptoms: obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are any intrusive and unwanted thoughts that the person with OCD experiences. Everyone gets intrusive thoughts, but people without OCD are able to brush them off as harmless. For people with OCD, certain intrusive thoughts cause them so much anxiety, disgust, and fear that they ruminate over them. This is what turns these thoughts into obsessions. These obsessions can revolve around anything, from the fear of being contaminated to the fear of secretly being an axe murderer.
Compulsions are OCD’s response to obsessions. The OCD brain can’t tolerate even small amounts of uncertainty. Obsessions make people with OCD think, “What if this thought is true?” Compulsions are any kind of repetitive or ritualistic behavior that’s done in order to reduce the anxiety that obsessions bring. Compulsions can be mental or physical behaviors. Some common types of compulsions are checking things, counting, reviewing memories, and asking for reassurance.
The problem with compulsions is that they don’t actually work. People with OCD engage in compulsive behavior over and over again and are still left with the same (or higher) level of anxiety and fear. The obsession becomes even stronger.
The golden standard for OCD treatment is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) called Exposure and Response Prevention, or ERP. ERP differs from most other types of CBT as it focuses more on the behavioral portion than the cognitiveportion.
Focusing too much on the content of OCD thoughts can be harmful and counterproductive. People with OCD need to learn that it isn’t the specific content of their intrusive thoughts that matters. Thoughts are just thoughts.
Instead of challenging irrational thought content (like most CBT therapists do), ERP therapists help people with OCD to sit with the uncertainty, discomfort, and fear that their intrusive thoughts bring. Most importantly, they learn to do this without engaging in a compulsion to try to make themselves feel better.
This form of CBT for OCD helps people to realize that they have the ability to sit through their intrusive thoughts without engaging in compulsions. With this OCD treatment, you can lose less and less of your precious time to compulsive behavior. With practice, your obsessions should have less power over you.
At REACH Behavioral Healthcare, our therapists are trained in this specific model of CBT for OCD. The ERP journey can be difficult and scary, but we will walk with you every step of the way to make sure you feel confident and safe.
Mental health experts usually recommend the use of psychiatric medications on top of CBT for OCD treatment. The psychiatric medications that have been found to be the most helpful for OCD are a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Brand names for SSRIs that are helpful in OCD treatment include Prozac, Luvox, and Anafranil.
Our psychiatric services department can talk with you to determine which, if any, medication may be a good choice for you and your OCD symptoms.
If you live with OCD, you don’t need to suffer for the rest of your life. There are evidence-based treatments that have been shown to be effective, including cognitive-behavioral therapy for OCD and medications.
Contact us today to learn more about treatment for OCD, and to be connected with a trained and experienced therapist ready to help.
The misconceptions about OCD, including in the mental health community, have led to up to half of all people with OCD being initially misdiagnosed. Often, mental health practitioners aren’t trained in the treatment of OCD, and may unknowingly use interventions that make OCD symptoms worse instead of supplying effective therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
At REACH Behavioral Health, our team is well-trained in how to recognize and treat symptoms of OCD. We offer both therapy for OCD as well as psychiatric medications. If you think you may be struggling with the symptoms of OCD, there is hope. Our team can help you recover using the latest evidence-based treatments, including a type of CBT for OCD called ERP.
If you are interested in beginning this journey of healing, we encourage you to contact us. You will be connected with our intake specialist, who will listen to your needs and pair you with one of our counselors. Taking that first step is always the hardest, but every journey of 1000 miles always begins with one first step.