Therapy for OCD

You deserve relief from unwanted, intrusive thoughts.

It’s not just a quirk or little annoyance. 

There are plenty of things that bother us for really no logical reason at all. Maybe you like to color-code your closet or clear out your phone notifications. Or maybe you like to follow a unique routine. You might be full of peculiarities, but there’s no reason to use a flippant phrase like “I’m so OCD” if you don’t have the actual, diagnosable condition.

For people with OCD, it can feel like suffocating. Sometimes it feels like living with a mind monster that loves, lives, thrives, and grows when you look for reassurance, rationalize, analyze, and ruminate all day long. Or it might feel like you are imprisoned in your own mind, chained to a steel chair with a loudspeaker urging you to carry out unwanted, irresistible, repetitive tasks. Or it might feel like a broken record, with thoughts that cycle over and over again, interfering with your daily functioning. Often, people with OCD desperately want control over their lives, but without the right skills and strategies, it can be extremely difficult to manage.

Let us help you break the patterns. Specialized OCD therapy can transform your life.

What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by recurrent and persistent intrusive thoughts and compulsions.

Intrusive thoughts are defined as involuntary, unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses that pop up in an individual’s mind, often causing distress, anxiety, and shame. They are pervasive and typically disruptive and can range from fleeting, passing thoughts to recurrent images that feel debilitating. Intrusive thoughts often target an individual’s deepest fears, doubts, or anxieties, manifesting in ways that feel unbearable. They can also range from harmless, such as thinking about an embarrassing moment, to harmful, when an individual has repeated, violent sexual, or self-destructive thoughts. These thoughts are not acts of one’s desires, beliefs, or intentions, but rather automatic, distressful mental events.

Compulsions are defined as repetitive behaviors or mental acts that are performed in response to uncontrollable intrusive thoughts. Compulsions are meant to provide temporary relief from the distress caused by obsessional thinking, but they can also interfere with normal daily functioning and significantly impact an individual’s life. These behaviors can take forms and can manifest differently in different people. Some common examples include excessive hand washing, checking, counting, arranging or aligning objects, strict adherence to specific rituals or routines, and repeating words or phrases. Compulsions can have a negative impact on an individual’s social, academic, and occupational functioning. They can also lead to secondary problems such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, and procrastination, as well as increased stress and reduced quality of life. In some cases, compulsions can become so time-consuming and disruptive that it can be difficult to work, attend school, or even maintain relationships.

OCD is a complex disorder with multiple causes. Studies have shown that OCD runs in families, indicating that there is a genetic component to the disorder. People with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with OCD are at a higher risk of developing the disorder themselves. Environmental factors can also contribute to the development of OCD. Traumatic experiences, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, can trigger the onset or exacerbation of OCD. Stressful life events, such as the loss of a loved one, job loss, or relationship problems, can also trigger or worsen symptoms of OCD. Additionally, people with OCD may have perfectionism and intolerance of uncertainty, which may contribute to their need for control and their fears of uncertainty and contingency.

In many ways, OCD is ego-dystonic, meaning that the disorder is at odds with the individual’s sense of self and values. OCD thoughts and actions are often not congruent with the person’s core beliefs, desires, or attitudes. As a result, individuals with OCD often regard their symptoms as intrusive, unwelcome, and annoying. They want to be rid of these thoughts, but they feel powerless to do so. In addition, the presence of obsessions and compulsions may lead people to struggle with their capacity for good judgment or decision-making. This can cause them to feel guilty, frustrated, or angry, adding to the emotional turmoil already present. Although OCD is a valid, diagnosable condition and certainly not an individual’s fault, some people with OCD may feel ashamed of the condition or personally responsible for their behaviors, which lead to a vicious cycle of shame and insecurity.

However, understanding the intricacies of one’s personal journey with OCD can help people achieve recovery through effective treatment and support. With the right treatment, individuals with OCD can learn to manage their symptoms, regain control, and develop a healthy and productive lifestyle.

Common OCD Intrusive Thoughts and Compulsions

How can therapy help with OCD?

Therapists play a crucial role in helping individuals with OCD because they have the knowledge, skills, and training to provide specialized interventions for the disorder. Therapy goals for OCD include reducing the frequency, severity, and intensity of obsessions and compulsions, improving the individual’s mood and well-being, and enhancing their relationships and overall functioning.

One of the most effective therapy approaches for OCD is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a structured and evidence-based therapy that focuses on changing the cognitive and behavioral patterns that maintain the OCD symptoms. In CBT, a therapist works with the individual to identify their specific obsessions and compulsions, as well as the underlying thoughts, beliefs, and fears that trigger and reinforce them. Then, the therapist guides the individual through a series of interventions designed to challenge and modify these patterns

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is another well-known therapy proven to be effective for people who struggle with OCD. It consists of two main components: exposure and response prevention. During exposure, a person with OCD is gradually exposed to their feared stimuli or situations. This can be done in various ways, such as in vivo exposure (in real-life situations) or imaginal exposure (in the person’s imagination). In response prevention, the person with OCD is asked to refrain from performing compulsive behaviors that usually accompany their obsessions. Overall, ERP can help people with OCD to feel more in control of their symptoms. By challenging their fears and compulsions, they can learn to resist these urges and feel empowered. They can also learn to recognize their triggers and learn strategies to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Another therapy approach that can be helpful for OCD is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT emphasizes acceptance and values-based action. In ACT, a therapist works with the individual to accept their thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or control them, and identify their core values and goals in life. Then, the therapist helps the individual develop skills and behaviors that align with their values and move them towards a more fulfilling life, despite the presence of OCD symptoms. ACT aims to help people build psychological flexibility, which is the ability to adapt to difficult situations and emotions without losing sight of their values and aspirations.

Therapy for OCD often includes mindfulness as well. Mindfulness is a technique that involves being fully present and engaged in the moment, without judgment or reaction to one’s thoughts or feelings. People with OCD may experience a lot of distress and pain related to their obsessions and compulsions, and mindfulness can help them learn to accept and tolerate their experiences without trying to control or avoid them. Mindfulness can also help people develop awareness and clarity of their thinking and emotional processes, which can help them make more deliberate and intentional choices about their behavior.

Overall, therapists provide a great deal of emotional support for individuals diagnosed with OCD, creating a safe and non-judgmental environment where patients can share their experiences while working towards recovery. With the help of a trusted therapist, individuals with OCD can gradually overcome their anxiety-provoking thoughts or compulsive behaviors that dominate their life and improve the quality of their lives. If you’re ready to begin this process and explore how you can create a life worth living beyond OCD, please reach out to us at River Oaks Psychology. We would be honored to work with you.