Need treatment for OCD? Consider these 5 options

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We’ve all heard people make offhanded comments like “I’m so OCD” while straightening up a picture frame or organizing their drawers. While many people like to be clean and organized, not everyone has OCD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder shouldn’t be brushed off, as it’s a mental illness that can interfere with many aspects of your daily life.

If you’re struggling with legitimate OCD symptoms, there are several treatment options for OCD that you can explore.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental health disorder associated with unreasonable thoughts and obsessions leading to repetitive behaviors. 

These repetitive behaviors, usually referred to as compulsions, can prevent you from carrying out your day-to-day responsibilities and maintaining healthy relationships. These excessive behaviors can take up a significant amount of time in your daily life. The unprovoked thoughts can also cause emotional and mental distress. For instance, if you try to ignore your compulsions, your stress will continue to increase until you carry out the repetitive behavior.

OCD affects more than 1% of adults in the United States, adding up to more than 2 million people being affected by the disorder, though it’s more prevalent in women than men. Symptoms can manifest in childhood, with 25% of cases developing before the age of 14. The average onset age of OCD is 19. 

OCD symptoms: Obsessions

It’s important to note that OCD symptoms can be separated into two categories: compulsions and obsessions. The difference is in the way that they manifest. 

Obsessions refer to unwanted thoughts or images that cause anxiety and distress. Obsessions can stem from specific themes or fears, such as:

  • Fear of contamination or dirt
  • The need for everything to be symmetrical
  • Shocking thoughts of harming oneself or others
  • Unwanted aggressive, religious, or sexual images and thoughts

OCD symptoms: Compulsions

Compulsions can stem from obsessions, but that’s not always the case. Mental health professionals usually refer to obsessions and compulsions as separate symptoms.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that often become excessive rituals. They are meant to soothe the anxious thoughts in your brain, but they can cause long-term distress. Just like obsessions, compulsions typically stem from themes such as:

  • Cleaning/washing
  • Checking
  • Counting
  • Orderliness
  • Sticking to a routine
  • Needing reassurance

This can result in excessive compulsions like: 

  • Repeatedly checking that you turned off the stove
  • Counting specific patterns
  • Washing your hands until they become raw 
  • Silently repeating the same word or phrase

5 treatment options for OCD

There are quite a few treatment options that can help you learn to manage your OCD symptoms, most of which focus on medication and therapy.

OCD treatment options that are recommended by mental health professionals include:

  • Medication — Medication is one of the first forms of treatment that mental health providers will recommend for treating OCD. For example, clomipramine is a common antidepressant that’s prescribed for people with OCD. It increases the amount of serotonin in your brain, which decreases the hyperawareness of your environment and alleviates some of your need to follow through with compulsions.
  • Exposure and response therapy ERP therapy embodies what it means to “face your fear” by slowly introducing you to things that cause your compulsions. For example, if you have a fear of contracting germs from a public place, your therapist may ask you to touch the doorknob of a public building, and resist the compulsion to immediately wash your hands. Confronting your fear bit by bit will decrease it over time.
  • Imaginal exposure The ideal first treatment option is imaginal exposure, as it’s usually used as a precursor to ERP therapy. Instead of asking you to physically touch something that may result in a compulsion, your therapist will ask you to visualize it instead. They will describe a real-life scenario that involves one of your fears, such as a public doorknob, and help you go through the experience in your mind. You can repeat the scenario in your brain over and over, eventually helping you to become more desensitized to the fear. Then you can move on to ERP therapy.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy This type of therapy focuses on understanding how your brain sends the signals that cause obsessions and compulsions. Cognitive behavioral therapy allows you to focus on the experiences that stem from negative thoughts. This will help you learn how to adapt your reactions to the negative thoughts and control your compulsions.
  • Habit reversal — This type of therapy involves several components like awareness training, positive reinforcement and relaxation techniques. The goal of habit reversal is to make you more aware of your compulsive behaviors in order to learn how to prevent them in the future. This can mean recording yourself in the mirror during a physical compulsion to be more aware of how your body is feeling during the repetitive behavior. 

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help treat your OCD

OCD obsessions and compulsions can make your anxiety skyrocket. The need to perform excessive rituals at inopportune times can affect your ability to enjoy social situations and complete your day-to-day tasks. Accordingly, treating your OCD should be a priority.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step to treat your OCD, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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