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How to treat OCD

by Varnika Mathur

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition where the affected individual is stuck in a chronic loop of anxiety. People are trapped in constant cycle of repeated obsessions and compulsions over which they have no control –

  • OCD Obsessions – People are stuck in a loop of distressing fears and urges over which they have no control. Such thoughts cause intense anxiety.
  • OCD Compulsions – To curb these obsessions and anxiety, people tend to behave a certain way or develop certain routines. They don’t actually want to act that way, neither does their behaviour give them any pleasure, but they continue to believe that without following the pattern, their condition will get worse. The cycle keeps on repeating endlessly and the loop leads to ever-returning anxiousness.

OCD cannot truly be cured but the treatment can help the affected people gain some relief and control their urges to a certain extent. The treatment could either be given in form of psychotherapy or medication, usually a combination of the two works most effectively. 


Cure for OCD

OCD does not have a cure per se, but it can be brought under control so that it does not affect your daily routine severely. Depending upon the degree of intensity to which a person has OCD, some people might be suggested to take long-term or more intensive forms of treatment. 

The two main treatments for OCD are psychotherapy and medications. Mostly, effective results can be achieved when the patient is exposed to a combination of the two.


Talk therapy often used as a synonym for Psychotherapy usually involves-

  • The mental health professional (MHP) would try to break down the issue into several parts, which could be your trail of thoughts, physical feelings and the way you act in correspondence to them
  • You will be encouraged to face your fears and obsessive thoughts without neutralizing them with your usual compulsive behaviours. They usually begin by addressing issues causing lower levels of anxiety and keep on moving progressively towards the more difficult thoughts.

The treatment is frightening, but it is a popularly acknowledged fact that by confronting one’s fears and obsessions, the anxiety eventually improves or goes away. People with mild OCD usually need about 10 to 12 hours with their mental health professional to follow the course of this effective treatment while people with more severe OCD require a longer duration of it.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that has proved to be effective for many people with OCD. It gives you the means to think, act and respond to your unhealthy and consuming thoughts in a more mindful way. The goal here is to replace negative thoughts with productive ones. 

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a component of CBT which involves gradually exposing the person with OCD to his fears and worries while teaching them how to resist the urge of doing the compulsive acts that follow these obsessions. ERP requires continuous efforts and will power and on some days it can seem hard to carry on. But once it comes in practice, it can help in improving one’s quality of life. This process can be carried out as per the affected person’s comfort either in one-on-one meetings with the mental health professional or in a group therapy, with your family present there. 

Acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT is yet another and relatively new psychological therapy for OCD that has been promising with the results. The central idea in the therapy is that anxiety is a part of life, and most reasonably it is our reaction towards the experience of anxiety that can be the actual problem. People are hence made aware of more effective ways of responding to this uncomfortable anxiousness while addressing their current compulsive behaviors which are required to stop.


A variety of medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of OCD. Antidepressants are usually the first medications prescribed for treatment of OCD. This class of antidepressants is called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Despite belonging to the category of antidepressants, these medications are often resourceful in treating anxiety disorders such as OCD too. They help in increasing the amount of serotonin available to the brain which could be useful in easing out a part of the anxiety. Which antidepressants have to be given depends upon the age, health and symptoms of the person with OCD.   

The benefits SSRIs start showing after upto 12 weeks from when the consumption began. Some people continue to take SSRIs for years while some stop if they notice that the troublesome symptoms have reduced considerably with time. It is only on the advice of the health professionals when one should stop their medication. Treatment will be stopped gradually to reduce the risk of side effects. Carelessness with the course of action can lead to unpleasant side effects such as anxiety or agitation, feeling sick, diarrhoea, dizziness, sleeping disorders such as insomnia, headaches etc. If the symptoms of OCD start to return, the dosage might be increased.

There are other experimental treatments available for severe cases of OCD as well, these include –

  • Clinical Trials, where one can volunteer as a research specimen for testing unproven therapies,
  • Deep brain stimulation, which involves installation of electrodes inside one’s brain surgically
  • Electroconvulsive therapy, where the electrodes attached to your head give electric shocks to start seizures which would make the brain release hormones such as serotonin.

However, the treatment goal should be to control the symptoms with the least amount of medication and drug usage possible. It is imperative that you surround yourself with supportive and emotionally available people who encourage and understand you.  

OCD support groups also exist at several localities which can help the person having OCD in various ways such as –

  • Creating a reassuring environment that can help in coping with the issues,
  • Reducing the feeling of isolation and loneliness
  • Offering a change at socializing with other people
  • Providing family and friends with information and advice on your condition


Self Help Strategies

It is important for the people with OCD to try and maintain a way of conducting themselves that is healthy and helps them in coping up with the ills of the disorder. In addition to the external help that is rendered by the MHPs, it is important for one to learn certain relaxation techniques that can be helpful when anxiety hits. Exercising can be really helpful in reducing symptoms of OCD if done regularly. The approach of a person having OCD has a lot to do with his course of action, he should aim to be positive and should religiously take up all the medication. Therapies, no matter how difficult, should not be dreaded. Snealth offers therapies for OCD at an affordable cost. We are also building a supportive community for OCD!

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