Can OCD be treated without medication?

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Patrick Carey

December 4, 2018

Yes, to give a simple answer.

Although lots of people find medication (usually serotonin reuptake inhibitors or clomipramine) helpful in making their obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms less severe, there are certainly ways to feel better without medication.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps the patient identify their thought patterns and the ways they affect their feelings and behavior, has been the preferred form of psychotherapy in the US and Europe for decades. It’s fairly effective for a wide range of things. There are also plenty of CBT offshoots, like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

For OCD, another CBT offshoot has been demonstrated most effective in a number of studies since the 1980s: exposure and response prevention therapy, or ERP. Most of these studies suggest it’s about as effective as SRIs or clomipramine. A combination of ERP and either SRIs or clomipramine has been shown to be most effective.

We’re always talking about ERP, because it’s helped a number of us and experts still consider it the best non-medication option for most people with OCD. Designed to help people face their obsessions and resist compulsions in healthy and productive ways, ERP is most effective when practiced with a therapist who has received specialized training in OCD treatment.

An OCD-trained therapist will know what to anticipate when you describe your thoughts and behaviors, and how to build your personalized treatment program. Their expertise is in teaching you how to manage your OCD so you don’t feel stuck trying to “get rid of” the unpleasant feelings caused by disturbing thoughts.

This is the same training all of our NOCD Therapists receive. The goal of NOCD is to reduce your OCD symptoms within just a few weeks of live one-on-one video therapy. You’ll be welcomed into our supportive peer community, with 24/7 access to personalized self-management tools built by people who have been through OCD and successfully recovered. 

Schedule a phone call with a member of the NOCD clinical team to learn more about how a licensed OCD therapist can help you get better. This consultation is free and doesn’t take very long—and it could be one of the most important calls you ever make.

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