What is OCD?
People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder struggle with persistent intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, and urges that cause significant anxiety or distress. To alleviate the unpleasant feelings, one will typically perform rigid, repetitive behaviors or mental acts aimed at reducing or neutralizing the anxiety produced by the obsessions. Obsessions can come in many different forms, including fears of contamination, preoccupation with superstition and preventing bad things from happening, thoughts of harming oneself or others, concerns with symmetry or order, inappropriate sexual thoughts, and apprehension centered around themes of religion and morality, among others. OCD however, is often recognized more by what people’s compulsions look like. Compulsions frequently appear as rituals such as cleaning or washing, checking, repeating, hoarding, and sorting, but can also take the form of “mental” rituals that regularly go unnoticed by others. Approximately 1 in 100 adults and 1 in 200 children and adolescents have OCD.
Our approach to treating OCD combines a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy with psychodynamic psychotherapy (traditional in-depth talk therapy). Starting with the premise that the ways you think and behave strongly affect how you feel, cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing self-defeating and irrational thinking and behavior patterns. It is a highly effective modality, proven to be particularly helpful in treating anxiety disorders and OCD. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a subset of cognitive therapy and is the gold standard in treating OCD. ERP therapy involves "exposing" yourself to the distressing thoughts and images (in a safe and nonjudgmental space) with the goal of learning to cope with the discomfort in resisting physical and mental rituals/compulsions. Over time, you should notice a decrease in the intensity of your anxiety—until one day you find it no longer affects you.
OCD Can Be Overcome