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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, involves experiencing obsessive thinking patterns that can include intrusive thoughts, images or urges that make a person feel anxious or distressed.

Individuals who have OCD often have significant difficulty pushing away or ignoring these thoughts. Additionally, they may worry that these thoughts have a greater meaning about what kind of person they are.  Those with OCD usually also engage in compulsive behaviors, which are an attempt to cancel out or “fix” the obsessive thoughts or urges by performing some sort of action or thought process.

Common signs of OCD include:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Seeking reassurance from others
  • Constant mental checking
  • Constant counting
  • Repeated cleaning of one or more items
  • Separating or discarding contaminated items
  • Constantly checking the stove or door locks
  • Fear of contamination (physical or emotional)
  • Hoarding
  • Thoughts that you might be harmed
  • Thoughts that you might cause others harm

Research shows that the most effective treatments for OCD are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and/or medication. A large component of CBT for OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP).  This is a method of “practicing” anxiety – essentially facing your fears even though you don’t feel ready – in order to get used to it (habituation).   Over time, most people experience less physiological and emotional reactivity to things OCD deemed contaminated, disgusting, dangerous, etc.

ERP is a collaborative process.  

It is not a therapist forcing you to do things you fear without preparation.

With time, people who embrace ERP can get facile with being more spontaneous with ERP, taking on challenges that they would have needed a much longer time to face in the past.

If you have more questions about ERP and treatment of OCD, feel free to contact me.