OCD Therapy Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a treatable condition. There are several methods of therapy that relieve its symptoms to a level that most people with the disorder can lead a normal life. This article looks at what obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is, and the standard therapies and medications that are used to treat OCD. It also looks at the risks and side effects of treatment, and tips on how to live with the condition.

What is OCD?

OCD is a common long-lasting anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders affect around 40 million adults in the United States. OCD affects 2.2 million adults, or 1 percent of the population.

OCD is marked by unwanted repetitive behaviors. The condition causes people to have repeated feelings, thoughts, and ideas called “obsessions” that make them feel driven to do something. This “urge to do something” is known as a compulsion.

Usually, the person carries out certain actions referred to as “rituals” to get rid of obsessive thoughts. However, the relief is often temporary, and the rituals have to be repeated. Not repeating the rituals can cause severe anxiety.

Obsessions that people with OCD may experience include fear of germs, unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts, aggressive thoughts, or having items in perfect order.

Compulsions that may be carried out in response to an obsession include excessive hand washing, arranging things in a precise way, and compulsive counting.

If a person thinks they may have OCD, they should speak with their doctor about their symptoms. OCD that is left untreated can cause a person great distress and affect the way a person functions day to day.

Common forms of therapy

There are many forms of therapy to help treat OCD. These treatments can help reduce the impact the disorder has on everyday activities. OCD is treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talking therapy. The aim of CBT is to help a person with OCD manage obsessions and compulsions by altering the way that they think and behave. These steps often lead to an improvement in mood and functioning.

CBT has proven a highly effective treatment and can be just as effective as medication for some people.

The idea behind CBT is that a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions are all linked. CBT focuses on how the way a person thinks can determine how they feel and their behavior.

For example, unrealistic or negative thoughts can cause distress. Distress can then affect how a person interprets a situation and have a negative impact on their actions. The person can become trapped in an ongoing cycle.

CBT concentrates on current problems rather than delving into issues from a person’s past. A therapist helps an individual deal with overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts.

People with OCD are also shown how to cope with and change negative patterns in a more positive way to improve how they feel.

CBT teaches how to recognize, observe, and monitor thoughts. The goal is for people to challenge their irrational beliefs and prove them wrong, resulting in a change of belief. The therapy looks at practical ways for a person to improve their state of mind on a daily basis.

Depending on the individual, improvements to mental wellbeing are usually seen in 12-16 weeks.

Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) is a type of CBT. The aim of ERP is to provide a person with exposure to the thoughts, images, objects, or situations that trigger their obsessions. The response and prevention parts then come into play for the individual to make a choice not to carry out their compulsive behavior.

ERP takes place under the guidance of a therapist. In time, the person with OCD will be given ERP exercises to practice on their own to help them manage their symptoms.

While ERP may cause anxiety to rise initially, the individual will experience a drop in anxiety levels over time and with practice.

Medications to treat OCD

In many cases, CBT successfully tackles OCD. However, for some people, a combination of CBT and medication may be effective.

The drugs that are prescribed to someone with OCD may vary depending on their age. A type of antidepressant medication called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are usually prescribed for OCD, although a doctor may prescribe other psychiatric drugs.

Researchers suggest that people with OCD may have abnormalities or an imbalance in a brain chemical called serotonin. This imbalance may cause OCD symptoms.

Serotonin sends messages between nerve cells in the brain and may regulate functions such as memory, sleep, and anxiety.

SSRIs work by slowing down the collection of serotonin from nerve cells by message transporters. This allows serotonin to stay in the space between cells longer, therefore increasing the likelihood that the next nerve cell will receive the message correctly.

SSRIs enable the body to use the reduced amounts of serotonin efficiently. As natural serotonin levels rise, a doctor can decrease SSRI dosage.

While most SSRIs are safe, the FDA require all antidepressants to carry the strictest warning for prescriptions. Children, teenagers, and young adults under age 25 may have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior when starting antidepressants.

People should never stop taking antidepressants without first speaking with a doctor, even if the person feels better.


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