Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be frightening and frustrating for its sufferers, as well as for their friends and family members. Obsessions and compulsions in OCD can take many forms. For example, some people with OCD may fear contamination and wash their hands until the skin is raw. Others may repeatedly check locks and appliances for fear that their house will be broken into or will burn down. Still others may fear that they have harmed themselves or a loved one and will spend hours checking to be certain that this is not the case. People with OCD are often bothered by disturbing intrusive thoughts or images, things they cannot stop from coming into their minds repeatedly and which do not make sense. Very often rituals involve family members or seeking reassurance from loved ones. Most people with OCD recognize that their fears are not rational, yet feel unable to manage the obsessions or resist the compulsions.
Fortunately, efficacious treatments for OCD exist, including therapy and medication. Gold-standard treatment for OCD in both children and adults includes exposure and response prevention (ERP), which is a specific form of cognitive behavioral therapy. In ERP, patients practice gradually exposing themselves to feared objects, situations, images, or thoughts (i.e., exposure), without engaging in rituals, avoidance, or reassurance seeking (i.e., response prevention). While treatment is focused on working directly with the individual affected by OCD, family members are often involved in treamtent, particularly if the patient is a child or when rituals involve family members. Homework is a very important part of ERP and involved completing exposure exercises at home or in people's day-to-day lives. Approximately 60-80% of patients respond to this ERP, making it by far the most effective treatment for OCD. However, other treatments exist for OCD as alternatives or adjunctive treatment to ERP, including medication (e.g., selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs) and acceptance and committment therapy or mindfulness-based strategies. In our clinic, we are also examining the helpfulness of computer-based treatments when paired with ERP.
We offer several resources for children, adults, and families affected by OCD.