Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

NOCD’s Research Demonstrates That ERP Therapy Is Effective For All OCD Subtypes

5 min read
Nicholas Farrell, Ph.D
By Nicholas Farrell, Ph.D

Every person with OCD has a unique story. Some experience an onset of symptoms in childhood, while others develop OCD in college or later in adulthood. The journey to receiving a proper diagnosis also differs for most, but it’s often filled with misdiagnosis, confusion, and extreme distress. For instance, research suggests it takes people with OCD 14-17 years on average to receive a formal diagnosis and evidence-based treatment, which is unfathomable given OCD is considered by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 most disabling conditions, and it leads people to be 10 times more likely to die by suicide.

One of the main causes of the OCD identification crisis is that the condition manifests in an infinite amount of subtypes, many appearing unique in nature, but all similarly rooted in obsessions and compulsions. It’s common for people with Contamination OCD to fear that they will acquire or spread a deadly illness, while folks suffering from Religious OCD might feel deeply concerned that they have unforgivably sinned and are not devout in their faith practices. What’s more is that people with Religious OCD might not have any concerns about contamination, and people with Contamination OCD may fully trust that their religious faith is in good standing. But then, their subtypes could even morph unpredictably—the person with Religious OCD later experiences Contamination OCD symptoms and vice-versa. In sum, OCD has a tendency to “shapeshift” over a long course of time.

Although the nuances of each OCD subtype have historically made it challenging for providers to diagnose OCD properly, they have encouraged many people with OCD to build online communities around specific subtypes. These communities not only educate about OCD symptoms on platforms like Reddit, Quora, Facebook, and even the NOCD community feed, but they also encourage others who are silently suffering with undiagnosed OCD to realize that the turmoil they’re experiencing is a recognized subtype of OCD. People share detailed stories about living with their OCD subtype, and others read and relate to the content. 

After one realizes that OCD is not just a personality quirk that’s synonymous with being uptight, the next question they often ask is “how do I get better?” Through continued research, many with OCD realize that the condition is chronic when left untreated, but that it can be effectively overcome with a specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

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ERP treatment centers around teaching people with OCD to respond to their fears in a more productive way by accepting uncertainty as opposed to stopping or neutralizing the obsessive fear via compulsive actions (i.e., compulsions) or other avoidant behaviors. In order to learn how to accept uncertainty, ERP-trained therapists will purposefully and creatively guide the person in triggering their OCD-related fear (i.e., through an exposure), and then teach them how to accept the uncertainty that accompanies the fear. Once accepting uncertainty becomes a new habit, as opposed to resorting to compulsive actions, the person with OCD typically experiences relief from their suffering. 

Real-world outcomes for various OCD subtypes

Even though the peer-reviewed research behind ERP’s efficacy for OCD is extensive, after learning about OCD, thousands have asked our team at NOCD, “but how do I know that ERP will work effectively for my subtype, and it’s not just for people with stereotypical OCD symptoms?” Since OCD is known as the “doubting disorder” and each subtype feels unique, this question is understandable. However, our research has demonstrated that ERP is effective for all subtypes. The answer is rooted in data, and recent research from NOCD supports it. 

Here’s a look at some of the outcomes hundreds of NOCD Therapists have achieved per common subtype community—and note that anything above a 35% reduction in OCD severity, as characterized by the Dimensional Obsessive Compulsive Scale (DOCS), is a clinically-significant improvement: 

  • Relationship OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 4,355 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 377 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 36%
  • Pedophilia OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 1,762 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 327 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 38%
  • Sexual Orientation OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 1,862 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 334 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 39%
  • Harm/Violent OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 3,832 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 374 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 39%
  • Contamination OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 3,118 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 349 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 36%
  • Religion & Spirituality OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 2,225 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 332 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 36%%
  • Health Concern OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 1,206 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 270 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 35%
  • Somatic OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 1,558 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 325 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 37%
  • Pure O
    • Patient Sample Size= 5,801 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 386 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 38%
  • Magical Thinking OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 1,079 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 281 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 33%
  • Existential OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 1,076 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 287 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 33%
  • Perfectionism OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 4,088 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 369 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 36%
  • Real Event OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 1,480 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 305 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 34%
  • False Memory OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 1,244 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 277 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 35%
  • Order & Symmetry OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 1,726 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 328 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 34%
  • Suicidal OCD
    • Patient Sample Size= 693 people with OCD
    • Therapist Sample Size= 252 ERP-Trained Therapists
    • Reduction in OCD severity= 36%

Getting effective help for OCD, no matter what your subtype is

If you are someone with OCD who is currently suffering with the condition, I hope our research offers you hope. Even if your subtype is highly misunderstood or morphs in the future, by doing ERP with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in the treatment, the chances of you learning how to manage OCD and live better are high. 

Moreover, treatment has become much more accessible: You can now easily find a licensed therapist who has specialty training in ERP from the NOCD Network, considering more than 2 out of every 3 Americans can get treatment from NOCD Therapy covered by their insurance. Additionally, most people have the option to get seen within 7 days of booking their appointment at NOCD Therapy. We want you and your family to pursue whatever you feel is the right fit and get an honest view of treatment, which is why we make all of our NOCD Therapy reviews public and keep them 100% unfiltered. Or, you can also find a specialist on the IOCDF directory or Psychology Today.

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If you have questions about your subtype, ERP therapy, our research, or working with a NOCD Therapist, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at your convenience at nicholas.farrell@nocdhelp.com, or schedule a free call with our care team to learn more. 

Nicholas Farrell, Ph.D

Nicholas R. Farrell, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the Regional Clinical Director at NOCD where he provides clinical leadership and direction for our teletherapy services. In this role, he works closely with our clinical leadership team to provide a high-quality training and developmental experience for all of our therapists with the aim of maximizing treatment effectiveness and improving our members’ experience. Dr. Farrell received his master's and doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wyoming (Laramie, WY, USA). He served as a graduate research assistant in the Anxiety Disorders Research Laboratory at the University of Wyoming from 2010 to 2015 and completed his predoctoral internship training as a psychology resident at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton (Ontario, Canada).

NOCD Therapists specialize in treating OCD

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Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp

Licensed Therapist, MA

I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.

Madina Alam

Madina Alam

Licensed Therapist, LCMHC

When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.

Tamara Harrison

Tamara Harrison

Licensed Therapist, MA

I have personally struggled with OCD and know what it's like to feel controlled by intrusive thoughts and compulsions, and to also overcome it using the proper therapy. I’ve been a licensed therapist since 2017. I have an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and practice Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. I know by experience how effective ERP is in treating OCD symptoms.

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