Treatment Options for OCD



Treatment for OCD itself generally falls into two categories, which can be used separately or in combination. These categories are 1) medications and 2) a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called exposure and response prevention (ERP).

Medications for OCD primarily consist of the antidepressants in the serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) classes. These types of medications treat OCD, anxiety and depression all together in most people. To get these medications, one should start with a diagnostic interview with a mental health professional, and then consult with your primary care doctors or your psychiatrist.

One specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) is another effective treatment for OCD. CBT is made up of many different kinds of interventions that aim to change the way you think or the way you behave. The one type of CBT for OCD is called exposure and response prevention (ERP). Exposure means facing the feared situation, consequence or condition (facing the obsessive thought), and response prevention means not doing the safety maneuver (preventing the ritual) afterward. This results in the person voluntarily facing a measured amount of distress and waiting until it dissipates by itself. When done in a hierarchical approach (starting with easy exposures that only create mild distress that goes away quickly, and gradually working up to harder ones), this builds up tolerance to anxiety and uncertainty, as well as reduces reliance on compulsions to get through feared situations. It might seem paradoxical, but facing one’s fears is the best way to make them go away; reducing the addiction to the rituals means returning the choices of how to respond back to the person.

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