Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental condition featuring a pattern of unwanted thoughts and obsessions that compel individuals to do repetitive behaviours (compulsions). The obsessions and compulsions take over the person’s life and interfere significantly with daily activities causing great distress. OCD often revolves around specific themes such as excessive fear of germs so that an individual keeps cleaning surfaces and washing hands until they are sore. OCD typically includes both obsessive thoughts and fears, and compulsive behaviours but sometimes it is possible for patients to show only obsessive or compulsive symptoms.

Since the experience of living with OCD can be quite nerve-racking and debilitating for the person, it is important to seek the right help at the time. So what are the possible ways in which mental health practitioners treat OCD?

Currently, there are many established OCD treatment protocols. Each has its own level of efficacy and it is best to consult with your doctor to identify the best treatment suited to your needs and symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is used successfully as a treatment for many psychological disorders including OCD. CBT uses two evidence-based techniques: exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) and Cognitive Therapy to treat OCD.

A licensed mental health professional will use CBT to focus on the thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physical symptoms involved in OCD.

The exposure part of the treatment helps the patient familiarise themselves with the condition’s different facets and gradually alleviate its symptoms. The therapist takes a detailed description of the individual’s obsessions and compulsions that are ranked from the least worrisome to the most difficult. The therapist gradually designs exposures beginning from the easiest triggers, that put the individual in situations that cause these symptoms. The individual avoids performing compulsive behaviours and with repeated exposures, they learn to reach a level when the anxiety decreases or is barely noticeable.

Psychopharmacology

Medication is often considered the first-line treatment course for OCD. Drug review bodies and authorities have approved several serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants as treatment options for OCD. Typically, SSRIs are the most often prescribed class of medication.

Many patients battling OCD symptoms vouch for the relief that medication has provided them. However, some individuals experience side effects and may discontinue this form of treatment.

Your doctor should be the best person to guide you if you want to take the medication route or combine it with other forms of psychotherapy.

Psychodynamics

Another form of therapy that offers relief to patients with OCD symptoms is psychodynamics. This line of treatment helps people improve the quality of their lives by helping them gain a better view of the way they think and feel. The concept is that this helps them improve their ability to make decisions, relate to others and imagine the life they would like to live. This approach enables an individual to understand some of the subconscious or unconscious motivations that cause certain thoughts and behaviours.

These elements are examined in the context of the OCD symptoms that they are experiencing. Gradually, the patient can move away from automatically responding to their induced triggers.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment therapy is a relatively new psychological therapy for an obsessive-compulsive disorder that has shown good results. This approach emphasizes on acceptance as a means to deal with negative thoughts, feelings, symptoms and behaviours. It also promotes commitment to healthy, constructive activities that align with your core values.  To treat OCD, ACT is used to target specific constructs including cognitive diffusion and decreasing experiential avoidance. It helps patients forge a new relationship with anxious thoughts and emotions. Additionally, it helps individuals to act toward the betterment of their life by following one’s ideals rather than spending time on negative feelings and thoughts.

Other treatment options

Often therapy and medications are not enough to control OCD symptoms. In these types of treatment-resistant cases, doctors often recommend FDA-approved treatments or programs such as residential treatment, deep brain stimulation, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation etc.

Conclusion

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is one of the most common and challenging conditions that impact the quality of life. The right treatment plan can help you manage the symptoms, reduce the intensity of thoughts and behaviours and improve your well-being considerably. Talk to your mental health practitioner to understand all the pros and cons of various treatment options, including side effects if any.