Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Treating OCD

Last week Oriana introduced you to the signs and symptoms of OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Today I'd like to introduce you to a form of therapy that professionals have found to be very successful in treating the disorder. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. When used to treat OCD it has two elements:

1) Exposure and response prevention
2) Cognitive therapy

So, what does that mean? Well, let's start with exposure and response prevention. As we learned last week, people with OCD have obsessive fears. These fears lead them to engage in compulsive rituals to try to control the fears. In exposure and response prevention, people are repeatedly exposed to the source of their obsession, then asked to refrain from the ritual they would usually engage in to stem their anxiety. An example would be someone who fears germs and compulsively washes their hands. They might be asked to touch a door knob, and then not wash up.

By repeating this exercise and slowly increasing the exposure, people learn that they do not actually need the ritual to control anxiety--they learn that they can have control over their obsessions and compulsions. Research has shown that exposure and response prevention actually "rewires" the brain, permanently reducing the occurrence of OCD symptoms, in some cases even eliminating compulsions completely.

What about cognitive therapy? Cognitive therapy addresses the "catastrophic thoughts and exaggerated sense of responsibility" (source: helpguide) often felt by someone with OCD, and aims to teach people healthy and effective ways to respond to obsessive thoughts, without using compulsive behavior.

Other types of treatments (like medication,family therapy, and group therapy) can also be used to help treat OCD. Last week Oriana mentioned that people in Chicago who want to learn more or seek help for OCD can use the extensive resources at OCD Chicago. Here are some more helpful links and resources to get people on the road to recovery.
  • OCD Guides: These downloadable PDF guides offer help and advice for adults, teens, college students, and parents of children with OCD.
  • Choosing a therapist A guide to help people choose the best therapist for them, including a list of questions to ask when looking for a therapist
  • Advice for family membersThe Center for Addiction and Mental Health created this helpful introduction to OCD, particularly useful for friends and family of someone with OCD.
  • International OCD Foundation For people outside of Chicago, the OCDF is an excellent source of information, advice, and resources for people with OCD.
  • Additional treatment info and Links: This article from helpguide has more information on treatment of OCD, and an extensive links section too.
OCD does not have to rule a person's life, there is help out there. If you or someone you love needs is living with OCD, remember that you can get treatment, and you can get better.


1 comment:

  1. If you'd like to see a compelling and inspiring true story of OCD on stage by ETD, come to one of our shows in the next 2 weeks. One is at the College of Lake County on November 5th and the other is on November 12th at Loyola University in Rogers Park. Details can be found on our website - www.ErasingtheDistance.org!


    ETD Executive Artistic Director