Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects nearly 1 in 40 Americans, and many more could be dealing with symptoms that haven’t been formally diagnosed. The rituals — such as excessive hand-washing, extreme attention to cleanliness and repetitive behaviors like tapping — and anxiety associated with OCD can seriously affect a person’s quality of life. Without treatment, it can lead to everything from difficulty securing and keeping a job to being able to successfully manage personal relationships. In this article, we go over how OCD is treated and the variety of methods and practices that may be used to develop a well-rounded, comprehensive treatment plan.
How OCD Is Treated
OCD can manifest in a variety of ways, and the symptoms can be very individual between people. Because of this, how OCD is treated often needs to be tailored to the specific anxieties and behaviors the person presents with. Below are some of the most common strategies used to help those suffering from OCD.
Counseling, whether by yourself or as part of a group, can have positive effects when it comes to managing OCD. Cognitive behavioral therapies have proved successful in helping people with OCD manage their symptoms. One OCD treatment that appears more promising than the rest is called exposure and response prevention. Patients are gradually exposed to the source of their obsessions or compulsions as a way to help them become desensitized.
Counseling and therapy can also help uncover some of the root triggers of OCD, which can make them easier to manage. There are many counseling types, and which one is suitable for you depends on your specific symptoms and goals. It’s important to lay out any worries and expectations you have with your health care provider as soon as possible to ensure that the proper course of therapy is chosen.
Before a diagnosis of OCD can be made, it’s also important to rule out any underlying medical causes that could be contributing to anxiety or other issues affecting rituals and repetitive behaviors. OCD isn’t the only potential cause of such symptoms. Your health care team should do a full medical workup, going over a detailed health history both physically and mentally, to ensure that every other possible medical cause has been ruled out. This can also help them discover if there are any co-occurring issues such as anxiety or a panic disorder.
While no drug exists specifically to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, a variety of medications have been successful in helping patients manage the symptoms. The drugs found to be most effective are antidepressants, including Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac and Anafranil. It’s important to discuss using these medications, including any side effect or contraindications, as part of your treatment plan with your care provider.
Your brain is the center for information when it comes to everything in your life. From what you see when you wake up in the morning to how you process your daily actions, everything happens in the brain. While this can be a major issue if you’re dealing with a mental health condition like obsessive compulsive disorder, it also means that it’s possible in some cases to improve the symptoms of OCD through diet and lifestyle changes. Putting a priority on healthy eating and cutting back on sugar and caffeine can help stave off anxiety and improve sleeping habits, and exercising regularly and making lifestyle changes that otherwise reduce stress can help manage some symptoms associated with OCD.
Can OCD Be Cured?
While it’s possible that some people experience a complete remission of symptoms after treatment and are considered cured, most people learn to control their symptoms and live a healthier, more satisfying life while managing their obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s also possible for this disorder to have some natural ups and downs, with periods where it’s under control and the person isn’t experiencing any symptoms followed by flare ups caused by stress or other life changes. The best chance of being cured of OCD is to coordinate with a mental health care provider and follow all of the recommendations associated with your treatment plan.
Living With OCD
Living with OCD can be a challenge, but it’s not something you have to tackle alone. Having the right support team around you and learning the strategies and tools that can help you cope can improve your day-to-day life and makes things easier to handle. Here are a few strategies to use to live your best life with an OCD diagnosis.
1. Make counseling and therapy a priority
Counseling is one of the best treatments for managing OCD symptoms because it focuses on the reasons behind the OCD as well as the specific way it’s impacting your life. With your counselor, you can start to work toward recognizing and managing triggers and understanding why your brain reacts to and processes information the way it does.
2. Reduce Stress as Much as Possible
No one can totally cut stress out of their lives, but working to create a life that doesn’t trigger your OCD is a worthwhile goal for long-term management. Many people with OCD experience worsening symptoms when they are stressed, anxious or feeling out of control, so working to establish boundaries and learn stress coping techniques can help reduce these occurrences.
3. Surround Yourself With Support
Having the right group of people around you is crucial to managing OCD and keeping your mental health moving in a positive direction. One-on-one therapy can provide this to an extent, as your therapist will help you work through any issues happening in your life that are contributing to OCD symptoms and help you learn how to address these. However, it can also be very helpful to discuss the daily aspect of living with OCD with others who understand because they are right there with you. Group therapy and even just informal support groups in person or online can help you feel like you’re not alone and introduce you to tips and tricks for coping that you may not have thought of. This is especially true because OCD can be a very isolating disorder.
Whether you’re living with OCD symptoms that are starting to seriously affect your daily life or you’re wondering if some of your habits may be more than just quirks, the right treatment can make all the difference. Contact FHE Health today to learn more about how we help people treat and manage OCD.