Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects about 1.6% of the population. It’s often associated with childhood trauma.
OCD is characterised by obsessions and compulsions that take up a lot of time (more than an hour per day). Treatment for OCD can include psychotherapy, medication or self-help techniques.
The first line of treatment for OCD is usually psychotherapy, with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or exposure and response prevention (ERP). Medications may be used in some people before or in combination with CBT.
Antidepressants are the most common medications used to treat OCD. These are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SRIs. They work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, and can help reduce obsessive thoughts and behaviors.
If you take antidepressants, they should be taken as prescribed. If you stop taking them, you may feel worse or even relapse.
Your doctor will discuss side effects with you. These may include nausea, headaches, dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness and tiredness. They often subside after a few weeks of treatment.
SSRIs have fewer side effects than older antidepressants, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). However, they can cause serious reactions in some people. They also increase the amount of serotonin in the blood, which can lead to a condition called “serotonin syndrome.” For these reasons, SSRIs are often not recommended for people who are elderly, pregnant or breast-feeding.
Psychotherapy is a type of mental health treatment that can help you manage obsessive compulsive disorder. It focuses on your thoughts, emotions and behaviors and helps you understand them better.
You talk to a licensed mental health professional, usually a psychologist or psychiatrist. This can be done individually or in a group setting.
Your therapist can help you explore your obsessions and compulsions, enabling you to break the cycle of thoughts and actions that keep you from living a full life. They may also use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches you to think and act differently about your thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns.
CBT uses a technique called exposure and response prevention (ERP). ERP involves gradually exposing you to your fears and compulsions, then having you practice avoiding them.
It takes time and effort to change your habits, but you can learn to manage your obsessions and compulsions. If you work with a good therapist, your symptoms may lessen or go away entirely.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by unwanted thoughts and mental images (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or rituals called compulsions. People with OCD may perform these compulsions to try to make their obsessions go away or reduce anxiety.
For example, if someone is afraid of contamination, they might develop elaborate cleaning or hand-washing compulsions to try to prevent themselves from coming into contact with germs. However, these compulsions only provide temporary relief and are often time-consuming and demanding.
Another important self-help strategy is to write down your obsessive thoughts and worries. This can be helpful because it allows you to objectively look at your thought patterns and see how repetitive your obsessions are.
Other strategies include stress management and relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation. It’s also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising. These are essential coping strategies for anyone suffering from OCD.
Treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder is aimed at providing a multimodal approach to the disorder that includes medication, psychotherapy, and family support. Studies show that this type of treatment is optimal for improving OCD symptoms and strengthening global functioning (Field et al., 2015).
However, research indicates that maladaptive family responses can undermine the effectiveness of psychological treatments for OCD symptoms and may lead to relapse in the short term. In response to these challenges, CBT for OCD is increasingly incorporating family members directly into the treatment process in hopes of improving outcomes and maintenance of gains.
Frequently, family members respond to OCD-affected individuals’ requests for accommodation with behavior patterns that are likely to maintain or exacerbate symptoms in the long run. Examples of these behaviors include helping with rituals, responding to reassurance requests, or engaging in tasks the person wants to avoid.