When dealing with any mental health disorder, it’s normal to want to know what will “fix” it. The idea of living forever with a condition that has a tremendous impact on your life feels daunting, and you just want to know how to overcome it.
The answer I give them isn’t always satisfying at first, but once patients understand that it is entirely possible to live a life free from the grip of OCD, they feel a lot of relief.
So, yes, it’s true that there is no “cure” for OCD. If OCD is left untreated, the likelihood is that it will only get worse over time. But when you do apply the right kind of therapy—from the right kind of OCD specialists—OCD will be there in the background while no longer affecting your daily life.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about how therapy can help your OCD.
The best & worst therapy for OCD
Again, OCD is a chronic condition. This means it won’t fix itself. The good news is that in the past half a century, treatment for OCD has progressed to the point where it can significantly help manage your condition. Many people can experience complete remission of symptoms. For others, treatment will reduce their symptoms and make their condition much more manageable.
The type of therapy proven to be most effective for treating OCD is known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). It involves gradually confronting your fearful thoughts while not engaging in compulsions.
The idea behind ERP is that facing thoughts or situations that trigger your fears or distress without engaging in compulsions is the best way to treat OCD. When you continually engage in the compulsions, it only strengthens your need to engage them via negative reinforcement. On the other hand, when you prevent yourself from engaging in your compulsions, you teach yourself a new way to respond, realize that the feared outcomes don’t come true, and will very likely experience a noticeable reduction in your anxiety.
Why traditional therapy doesn’t work for OCD
The surprising news, at least for some, is that your typical talk therapy won’t be of much help for OCD. Reviewing past events, analyzing your childhood, or getting to the root of your anxiety simply won’t put a stop to the obsessions and compulsions—the two key symptoms of OCD. Talking with a therapist about why there’s no logical reason to fear getting sick from touching a doorknob will not help someone with contamination OCD overcome their obsessions and compulsions in the long term. This can be frustrating for someone experiencing OCD and looking for relief.
In fact, the intrusive thoughts people with OCD experience cannot be cured by providing rationalizations for why they are untrue. Notably, reassurance-seeking is a very common compulsion for people suffering from OCD. ERP therapy does not try to provide reassurance. An ERP therapist knows that this is a form of compulsion and will only strengthen the cycle of OCD. Instead, the approach is to slowly expose a patient to the source of their fears.
Instead of reassuring you, an ERP therapist might encourage you to touch a doorknob if you have fears of getting sick. Rather than trying to convince you there is no threat, they will work with you to better tolerate the uncertainty that comes along with touching the doorknob. The goal might be to touch the doorknob repeatedly without engaging in, for instance, compulsive handwashing.
Where to get effective therapy for OCD
If you’re struggling with OCD, the most important thing to know is you don’t have to suffer alone. NOCD offers live face-to-face video therapy sessions with specially-trained OCD therapists.
Therapists with intensive, specialized training in OCD and ERP therapy, like the clinicians at NOCD, can provide an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan to put you on the path to recovery—just as we do for others every day.
The best part is you don’t have to leave home to access it, and insurance makes it affordable.