Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is highly variable in terms of symptoms. The obsession is the thought and the compulsion is the behavior. Although some OCD patterns are common such as touching, counting and repeating, obsessive and compulsive behaviors can be very unique. When a behavior causes social, emotional, educational or occupational dysfunction then therapy and intervention are necessary. In most cases OCD can be treated successfully.
The first step in treatment is identification and finding a professional who is willing and able to help you find a successful treatment regimen. The most common treatments include behavior therapy or medication. Choose a physician or a mental health professional you feel comfortable with. Your ability to engage with the therapist really does matter. Ask for a no charge “get to know” visit where you can meet the therapist for a few minutes to talk about the type of care you are seeking. If you begin seeing a therapist and there is not a therapeutic reciprocal alliance then ask for a referral to another therapist. Engagement does matter.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the most common type of behavior therapy used in OCD. The goal of CBT is to identify and confront fears in order to reduce anxiety through exposure and response prevention exercises without progression to the compulsive behavior. Obsessions that cause the least anxiety are dealt with first and then each obsession is pursued in a serial fashion progressing up to the most anxiety associated obsession.
Medication can also be used to decrease the intensity of OCD symptoms. Medication is often used in conjunction with CBT to reduce anxiety and improve patient compliance and success. The most common medication is an antidepressant such as Anafranil, Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft.
Support groups, exercise, calming activities such as meditation and yoga and other strategies such as guided positive imagery and progressive relaxation techniques can also be helpful.