Psychologists at Dallas CBT specialize in treatment for OCD in children and adults. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is considered among the most treatable conditions, meaning that people with OCD tend to get much better with therapy. Research indicates that Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a cognitive behavioral therapy, is the best treatment for OCD, over and above medication. ERP works by changing responses to intrusive thoughts and the behaviors that maintain anxiety over time.
We have all learned to do things that prevent scary or bad situations, such as locking our car doors or taking Vitamin C during cold season. In OCD, however, these behaviors can begin to take over one’s life. People with OCD often have disturbing and stressful thoughts, urges, or images (obsessions), such as fears about contracting a terrible disease or picturing oneself hurting another person. People with OCD can develop behaviors or routines to help reduce the distress caused by obsessions, such as frequent hand-washing, checking, or counting. These compulsions can help alleviate anxiety in the short-term but often become repetitive and take over one’s life, leading to more problems. OCD is not simply being a “neat-freak” or being concerned about orderliness; rather these obsessions and compulsions are time-consuming, distressing, and cause significant impairments in daily life.
Potential Signs of OCD
- Preoccupation with certain fears, such as contamination, harming self or others, acting out sexually, or offending God
- Stressful or scary thoughts, images, urges that pop up repeatedly in ones mind, or a frequent feeling that things are not “just right”
- Feeling compelled to do certain behaviors over and over again in order to feel less anxious or get rid of a certain thought
- Feeling like you cannot control the unwanted thoughts and behaviors
- Frequently being late because of compulsive behaviors
Our state-of-the-art treatment involves Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), an empirically-supported treatment for OCD. ERP involves gradual and systematic exposure to anxiety-provoking situations while simultaneously reducing and eliminating typical fear responses, such as escape or avoidance or compulsive behaviors in OCD (e.g., checking, washing, ordering). With young children, exposure-based CBT requires significant involvement from the parent(s).
The recommended dose for Exposure and Response Prevention is 17 to 20 sessions, but this can vary depending on needs. These sessions typically last 60 to 120 minutes and are held once or twice weekly.
Exposure therapy is a type of CBT that is highly effective for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive related disorders. In fact, it often performs just as well, if not better, than psychiatric medication for these issues. Exposure therapy involves a gradual and systematic approach to confronting fears and anxiety-provoking situations that you have been avoiding, with the aid and support of your therapist. Exposure provides the opportunity to learn that feared consequences are unlikely to come true and that with repeated exposure, you can desensitize and build tolerance to anxiety-provoking concerns. The overarching goal of exposure therapy is to reduce or eliminate avoidance of objectively safe situations, which leads to reduction in anxiety about these situations. This treatment causes short-term anxiety, as it involves facing the fears that you have been avoiding; however, it is the most effective way of overcoming OCD.