On Your Health

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Treatment for OCD

Every day, people of all ages and all walks of life suffer from an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which is a mental health disorder that traps a person in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.

Compulsions could include behaviors that a person feels they have to engage in to relieve stress or control obsessions while obsessions are intrusive images, urges or thoughts that can cause distress or intense feelings.

Even though it affects one out of every 100 adults and one out of every 200 children, most of what is commonly known about OCD is based on stereotypes and misconceptions.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the average age of onset in adults is 19 years old, and of those diagnosed each year, 50 percent are classified as having a “severe” form of the disorder. In children, OCD will generally first appear between the ages of 10 and 12 and can even set in as early as the age of four.

Most people experience obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors during their lives, but for a person suffering from OCD, those behaviors and the cycle of obsession and compulsions becomes so extreme that it disrupts normal life.

Luckily, treatments are found to be helpful in treating this disorder.

Exposure and Response Prevention therapy

Exposure and Response Prevention is a type of cognitive behavior therapy that is often used for OCD patients. Through this therapy, patients are exposed to the thoughts, situations, images or objects that trigger anxiety or obsessions.

As part of ERP, once exposed to your triggers, you make an active choice to NOT do a compulsive behavior after being exposed. This therapy is done under the watchful eye of a therapist at first because being exposed to your triggers can cause initial worry, fear or trepidation. However, through regular ERP therapy, you can learn to do the exercises on your own and manage your own symptoms.

ERP is oftentimes combined with medications called serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SRIs. While the ERP is done by licensed mental health professionals in an outpatient setting, the combination of ERP and medications are found to be the most effective for 70 percent of OCD sufferers, according to the International OCD Foundation.

The medications often prescribed alongside ERP include:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)

Treatments via skype

Although ERP and medications may be the most successful way to control OCD, less than a quarter of cognitive-behavioral therapists have training in how to treat OCD. Those who do are most likely located in metropolitan cities, so a shortage of licensed therapists available to rural or remote patients can be a challenge.

However, technology like Skype therapy can be helpful. A recent study showed that those who did ERP therapy twice a week via Skype showed similar improvements to those who had in-person therapy.

In fact, in the study, 80 percent of teleconferencing patients said they rated their life as “much” improved after three months. This study suggests that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy. 

The Anxiety and Depression Society of America also did a study which showed that internet-based therapy is also something patients like. In their study, 86 percent of respondents indicated that they “definitely would” or “possibly would” try Internet-based treatment for OCD.

The study also provided encouraging evidence that OCD can be treated online, requiring only a small amount of therapist time.

Other OCD resources

Just knowing you aren’t alone in the struggle against OCD can go a long way towards your recovery. In addition to different therapies and medications, a wealth of information is available on how to handle symptoms, where to find support groups, information on the OCD community and more.

The International OCD Foundation has a great resource page here, which includes blogs, helpful tips, facts and handouts, articles from experts and more.

Also, check out the NOCD website for more information and online treatment options.

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