OCD is treated with evidenced based therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention.
What is ERP?
ERP is a component of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and considered the “treatment of choice” for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). ERP is also utilized for treating other mental health conditions, such as phobias, panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorders and social anxiety. This method gradually exposes a patient to feared thoughts, images or impulses which decreases anxiety and distress over time.
How does ERP work?
Someone suffering from OCD experiences obsessions and compulsions. An obsession refers to a feared situation that causes anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors used to reduce the anxiety brought on by the obsession. ERP helps you gradually confront obsessions and compulsions using:
Exposure: gradual and repetitive exposure to a feared situation
Response prevention: avoiding the impulse to use a compulsive behavior
The goal of ERP is to be exposed to a feared situation while avoiding the compulsive behavior long enough that the anxiety decreases. This way of reducing anxiety is called habituation. Habituation is important because it’s the point at which someone no longer needs compulsions to reduce their anxiety. You know that if you sit with your anxiety long enough, it will decrease on its own.
Most of the time, treatment requires approximately 12 sessions of ERP. Typically, 2 sessions a week are required for the first 3 weeks. After the first 3 weeks, we will likely do sessions once a week for about 12 weeks. We will start by doing an evaluation and assessments, education on OCD, and create a fear hierarchy. Then we will begin our journey of doing exposures together.
It is helpful to do virtual sessions, especially once the exposures are started. If you prefer some of the sessions in-office, then the first 1-3 sessions can be done in person.
What type of OCD is treated?
Every subtype of OCD is treated with ERP. Many people describe having “Purely Obsessional” OCD. This just means that you may not be displaying compulsions that are noticeable, or behavioral. There are still compulsions involved, but they are mental compulsions. There are many types of OCD.
Harm OCD, Fear of Harm and Disaster OCD, Pedophilia OCD, Sexual Orientation OCD, Post Partum OCD, Magical Thinking OCD, Religious OCD, Real Event OCD, Existential OCD, Just Right/Symmetry OCD, Contamination OCD, Somatic OCD, Sensorimotor OCD
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