In the first part of this two-part article, we discussed causes and symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. Here we will look at treatment options. While you may have success in a “self help” approach, if this doesn’t work for you, it’s important to consult your doctor or other medical professional for treatment.
If you require medication, our integrative clinic has both a physician — a GP — and a psychiatrist can prescribe drugs. We also offer other non-medication forms of treatment discussed below.
Treatments For OCD
OCD is treated most often with therapy or medication — or both. Most patients do respond to treatment, though some continue to suffer issues with the condition throughout their lives. OCD may indicate other underlying psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression. It’s important to consult a qualified therapist if you suffer from this condition. He or she can show you methods for managing the condition, removing or at least mitigating the compulsions.
Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” can be effective in managing OCD in both children and adults. Therapy can take several forms, depending on the severity of the condition and the therapist’s experience. Therapies for some patients have even shown effectiveness when medication has failed.
Some forms of therapy include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of therapy seeks to have the patient develop coping mechanisms and ways of managing OCD. CBT may involve consciously steering one’s mind away from compulsive thoughts.
Exposure and response prevention. A subset of CBT, this type of therapy involves exposure to the object of compulsion as the patient learns to prevent the accompanying response. A patient who suffers from a condition involving checking the stove may learn to back away from the stove, watching it, until enough distance has been acquired that the patient can turn around and leave without feeling the compulsion.
If therapy is not enough and the patient needs medication, the most common type of medication is called a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. While some patients experience rapid improvement in their symptoms, others can take as much as twelve weeks to show signs. While patients suffering from depression may also receive SRIs, doses for OCD patients typically must be higher. The cousins of SRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are newer and show better signs of improvement.
If your therapist or physician prescribes such medication, be sure to discuss side effects and risks, as all medications carry the possibility of both. Equally important, if you are on medication, do not stop taking it arbitrarily. Stopping this type of medication “cold turkey” can actually lead to worse symptoms of OCD.
If you encounter any side effects at all, contact your medical professional, whether it is your physician or psychiatrist.
Living With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Some victims of this condition find they can mitigate but not completely remove their compulsive behavior. Remember, the goal is not perfection — don’t obsess about your treatment! The important initial goal is to change the behavior so that it doesn’t damage your daily life. Start by focusing purely on becoming functional.
You are more likely to experience a complete loss of OCD symptoms if you reach a stage where your obsessive compulsive disorder is “good enough” to live with. If you no longer feel overwhelming degrees of compulsion, you have reached a vital milestone. At this point, the remaining aspects of your compulsions and obsessive thoughts can gradually remove themselves from your thoughts and life.