Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Hijacked Your Life?

Do you often experience distressing ideas, thoughts, images, or impulses that come up repeatedly and may seem senseless and incongruent with how you see yourself? In response to the anxiety they cause, do you become stuck in a continuous loop of repetitive behaviors? Do these compulsions serve as a way to manage uncertainty but, in the process, take up hours of your time, sap your productivity, and leave you mentally exhausted?

Perhaps you feel compelled to engage in compulsive behaviors—such as hand washing, checking and rechecking the stove, or putting objects in order—before moving on to the next thing. Or maybe some of your compulsions are internalized, causing you to pray, count, or repeat words to yourself as a way to keep more intense anxiety at bay.

Although these compulsions are aimed at reducing stress or preventing a dreaded outcome, this logic inevitably backfires. When you engage in compulsions that become intrusive, unwanted, and impossible to stop, it causes its own kind of anxiety and distress. 

Often times the content of obsessive thoughts can feel shameful—for example, thoughts that are sexually graphic or seem inappropriate in some way—and you might be embarrassed to talk about them. You may feel socially isolated and fear that life is passing you by as you struggle to keep up with daily tasks.

Family Members Often Inadvertently Enable OCD Behavior

Unfortunately, it’s common for parents, siblings, spouses, and partners to unknowingly keep the cycle of OCD going by engaging in accommodations. Perhaps, in an effort to reduce a child anxiety, a parent might provide them with excessive reassurance, complete their child’s ritual for them, or allow them to keep engaging in avoidance behaviors.

Luckily, Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) can help you regulate OCD. By utilizing evidence-based treatment shown to reduce the symptoms of OCD, you can break the chains that keep you stuck.

The Origins Of OCD Remain Unclear

It is estimated that “1 in 100 adults—or between 2 to 3 million adults in the United States— currently have OCD.” Sadly this disorder can also affect children and teens. Although research has shown that it can run in families, genes appear to be only partly responsible for causing OCD. What’s more, some studies suggest the genetic component of OCD varies depending on when it develops. It’s believed that “genes play a larger role when OCD starts in childhood compared to when it starts in adulthood.” 

When we suffer from OCD, our response to danger becomes scrambled. Although anxiety is how we perceive potential threats and is necessary for human survival, the OCD brain can’t discern legitimate threats from harmless situations. As a result, we often perceive that we’re in dangerous life-or-death situations which, in turn, causes our brain to concoct elaborate strategies to keep ourselves safe.

OCD Can Become An Endless Loop That Fuels Itself

If we don’t recognize that what we’re experiencing is OCD, we may unwittingly feed the beast. The more we engage in compulsive behaviors, the more likely these behaviors will continue to proliferate out of control. And sadly, those of us who are too embarrassed to talk about the thoughts we have might hold off seeking OCD treatment rather than risk being judged or ridiculed.

If you have OCD and feel isolated and confused, there’s no reason to suffer alone. At Colorado CBT, we have a team of therapists who can help you manage the symptoms of OCD by utilizing cutting-edge treatment. 

Treatment Can Help You Manage OCD Thoughts And Behaviors

If Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has been an ongoing problem for you, you might have tried therapy before without success. Perhaps you’re wondering what will be different this time. When it comes to OCD, not all treatments are created equally. However, CBT Colorado offers Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP), the gold standard treatment for children, adolescents, and adults suffering from OCD. 

OCD counseling will be a safe place where you can be open and honest about the thoughts you have as well as the resulting compulsions. Your therapist will be an expert in treating OCD. Not only will they provide you with validation and support to normalize your experience, but they will also guide you through the ERP process to help decrease your suffering and improve your quality of life. With a commitment to therapy, you can experience what it feels like to live free from OCD symptoms.

What To Expect In Sessions

For OCD treatment to be effective, we must first have a clear understanding of what your thoughts and compulsions are. After the initial consultation, your therapist will conduct the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale assessment (Y-BOCS) with you and an analysis of how your obsessions, compulsions, triggers for obsessive content, and patterns of avoidance are connected to determine how your OCD functions. From there, we can craft ERP therapy to specifically target how your OCD shows up for you.

In addition to ERP therapy, approximately 70 percent of OCD sufferers benefit from taking medication. After your evaluation, your therapist might recommend you meet with our in-house Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). If appropriate, they can prescribe a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) as an adjunct to OCD treatment.

Working With Family Members

What’s more, family members often need support identifying and reducing accommodations to ensure OCD treatment is successful. Support sessions help parents better understand how OCD impacts the family and provides them with practical steps they can take to minimize accommodations and support their child through treatment. We will also provide them with psychoeducation on how to advocate for their child’s needs with teachers and within school.

How ERP Therapy For OCD Works

Utilizing Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP), we will help you realize that the bad thing your OCD brain insists will happen—unless you engage in compulsions—won’t happen. Through exposure (like touching something you fear is contaminated with germs) and response prevention (not immediately washing your hands afterward), you will learn to sit with the anxiety you’ve been avoiding. By growing accustomed to how anxiety feels, you will realize it’s only temporary and will recede on its own without having to engage in compulsive behavior.

After practicing ERP together in sessions, you will be assigned homework to follow up with at home. Throughout the process, your therapist will be encouraging and supportive whenever you want to avoid confronting your fears. 

With ERP and, perhaps, medication, successful management of OCD symptoms is possible. Even if you’ve concluded your OCD is treatment-resistant, with targeted ERP work you can achieve results that will give you your life back.

But You May Wonder Whether OCD Treatment Is Right For You…

ERP therapy for OCD sounds scary. What if I can’t do it?

Your treatment will be gradual and tailored to you. After your therapist establishes a hierarchy of exposure exercises for you, over time, you will work up to the most challenging exposures specific to your OCD. For OCD therapy to be effective, you will have to be pushed out of your comfort zone by confronting the anxiety you’ve grown accustomed to avoiding. However, your OCD counselor will be encouraging, compassionate, and supportive throughout the process. 

After treatment, will I still have OCD?

Although there is no cure for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, effective treatments like ERP therapy combined with medication management can dramatically decrease your symptoms. And once symptoms take up less of your headspace, your quality of life can improve exponentially. 

What if, after I stop engaging in my compulsions, something bad happens?

As someone with OCD, you may have convinced yourself that your compulsions and rituals are what keep bad things from happening. That’s why you keep doing them and remain stuck in OCD behaviors. But this belief is just your OCD talking. Although a normal part of life is that sometimes things we don’t want or expect will inevitably happen, when or how they occur is never related to your compulsion. In treatment, you will learn to recognize and challenge the distorted thinking brought about by OCD.

You Can Move Beyond OCD And Get Your Life Back

If you are committed to healing from OCD, we are here to help you achieve your goals. To find out more about OCD treatment with Colorado CBT, please visit our contact page to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.