Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder & Treatment
California & Maine Psychology Services
According to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), approximately 2 to 3 million adults currently have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as do approximately 500,000 children and adolescents. The description below includes a brief overview of OCD and the specific type of treatment I am able to provide for people with OCD. This information is provided for informational purposes only to help you better understand OCD, but is not to be used in place of a professional assessment and diagnosis.
Please note, it is common for people to suffer from multiple disorders, such as OCD and a depressive disorder. If you feel you may be suffering from a mental health issue and are ready to get help, or even if you’re unsure if you need help and just want more information, please contact me today. If you are experiencing a psychiatric emergency, meaning likely to harm yourself or others, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
What is OCD?
OCD occurs when people experience obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are often experienced as intrusive, recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that cause significant anxiety or distress for most people. People with OCD either try to ignore or suppress their obsessions, or, try to “neutralize” them with another thought or action (i.e., a compulsion). Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that people feel like they have to perform because of their obsession or based on some set of rules they have created. The purpose of the compulsions are to decrease anxiety or prevent another dreaded outcome (e.g., “If I don’t check the locks 5 times, someone might break in”). However, the compulsions are often either excessive or not realistically connected to what they are designed to prevent (e.g., “If I put my cup down in this spot only, it will prevent my loved ones from getting sick”). Furthermore, the obsessions and/or compulsions are time-consuming and may cause impairment in school, work, relationships, etc. It is important to note that with OCD, people often recognize it based on explicit compulsive behaviors (e.g., repetitive handwashing, checking locks, constantly cleaning, etc.); however, many people with OCD have what is referred to as “pure O,” or purely obsessional OCD. In these cases, the compulsive acts occur as hidden mental rituals, such as un-doing or re-doing certain actions in your mind or constantly seeking reassurance (e.g., researching things online to decrease anxiety, getting reassurance from others to feel better and decrease anxiety, etc.). Exposure and response prevention (ERP), a specific type of CBT treatment, is considered an evidence-based treatment for OCD and involves gradually facing the anxiety-producing thoughts, images, objects, or situations related to one’s obsessions, while working toward not engaging in the behavior (i.e., compulsion), which leads to a reduction of anxiety symptoms over time as you learn to cope more effectively.