Understanding OCD Treatment

Understanding OCD Treatment

People with OCD experience anxiety and compulsive behavior. Their anxiety is related to thoughts about risk, even when the risks are incredibly unlikely.

There are many treatment options for OCD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a brief therapy that usually requires weekly sessions with a qualified mental health practitioner. It teaches people how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect each other. It also teaches techniques that help them change unwanted or problematic feelings and behaviors.

CBT therapists may also use CBT’s exposure and response prevention (ERP) technique to help people overcome their OCD. During ERP, they gradually expose people to situations that trigger their obsessions and ask them not to perform compulsions. Therapy can be conducted either individually with a therapist or in a group setting.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

Often used alongside CBT, Exposure and Response Prevention is considered one of the most effective treatments for OCD, both with or without medication. One way to address obsessive thoughts and behaviors is through gradual and repeated exposure to triggers while resisting the urge to engage in compulsive actions. This involves confronting thoughts, images, objects, and situations that elicit obsessions. Over time, this breaks the conditioned relationship between obsessions and compulsions.

Your ERP therapist will typically begin with low anxiety-provoking exposures and work up to more intense situations as you show improvement. This may be in-vivo (in the real world) with your therapist present or through imaginal exposure.

Your therapist will help you practice these strategies in session until you can handle them independently. This can be done in various settings, including outpatient, partial hospitalization, and residential treatment. It takes time and dedication, but it’s worth it. Your life can improve dramatically once you have the tools to manage your OCD.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is an evidence-based therapy that has garnered interest among mental health specialists as an effective OCD treatment Boulder for many disorders. It is considered part of the third-wave psychotherapies. It is a unique approach that focuses less on changing the nature of obsessive thoughts or minimizing distressing symptoms and more on accepting these experiences and moving forward in ways that align with one’s values.

During sessions one and two, clients learn to make contact with thoughts, feelings, memories, bodily sensations, and fears that have been avoided. Through the Passengers on the Bus Metaphor and other ACT exercises, clients experience how these private events are not a threat but rather an opportunity to connect to their values.

During the third and fourth sessions, clients take concrete steps to change behaviors that align with their values. Typically, this means addressing the various escape/avoidance behaviors that have been used: compulsions, avoiding certain situations, self-talk, reassurance, and possible drugs (both legal and illegal). Homework assignments are often required outside of sessions to help practice these skills.


The most common medication used to treat OCD is SSRIs, such as fluoxetine (Prozac). These medications are effective in reducing obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. They are usually taken daily and in the morning.

For some people with OCD, ERP therapy can be combined with medication to help them get better faster. This therapy involves exposing yourself to feared objects and situations while resisting the urge to perform your rituals. For some people with OCD, this can be extremely difficult.

Medications for OCD typically take a couple of months to work and sometimes have side effects such as dry mouth or nausea. Some of these medications may also interact with alcohol or other drugs. If you’re taking benzodiazepines, it is essential to avoid drinking alcohol. Talk to your doctor about these concerns. They can help you find the proper treatment for your specific needs.