Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, otherwise known as OCD, is a condition whereby a person engages in repetitive or ritualistic behaviors or thought patterns that interfere with daily activities. There are two primary types of OCD therapy, namely cognitive-behavioral and drug therapy. Many times, doctors treat their patients with a combination of both. Some experts also believe that alternative therapies, such as relaxation therapy and hypnosis, are also useful in combating OCD.
People who suffer from OCD often feel compelled to engage in certain behaviors, usually involving some sort of repetition. For instance, a person might find it necessary to perform certain rituals before eating a meal, such as circling the table three times or ensuring that the utensils and dishes are placed in a particular position in relation to each other. Other OCD sufferers are disturbed by intrusive, repetitive thoughts over which they feel they have no control. As an example, every time a person rides in a car, he or she might visualize the recurring image of a violent car accident. These unbidden behaviors can detract from the quality of a person’s life and interfere with everyday activities.
Experts often depend on cognitive-behavior therapy, or CBT, as a primary treatment for patients with OCD. CBT is actually twofold in that it addresses both the actual physical actions of a patient as well as the thought patterns provoking the behavior. Generally, a patient is presented with a situation that would normally incite a particular obsessive reaction and is asked to consciously refrain from performing that action. For instance, if a person obsessively organizes items into perfectly neat rows, he or she might be presented with a clutter of objects and asked to refrain from adjusting them in any way. The ability to consciously resist the compulsion is often stressful, causing a great deal of agitation, but this is useful in helping the patient learn that he or she can ultimately control the particular behavior.
In addition to the behavior modification, the adjustment of a person’s thought processes is also a necessary component to this type of OCD therapy. Specifically, in order to resist a particular compulsive behavior, a patient must be taught to realign his or her way of thinking. Experts coach their patients to recognize the compulsive thoughts as part of the disease and to ignore those thoughts or replace them with other, more positive, images. For instance, if a patient feels the need to wash immediately after shaking hands with someone, he or she might be made to imagine that the individual is wearing sterile gloves or has sanitized hands so that hand washing is not necessary.
Sometimes, and especially in severe cases, OCD therapy involves the use of certain medications. Primarily, doctors prescribe particular antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which include paroxetine, fluoxetine, and citalopram. In instances where these medications are not effective, experts sometimes recommend tricyclic antidepressants (TCA), which are more effective against OCD but also carry some troublesome side effects. For the most serious cases, doctors might also prescribe a low dose of antipsychotic medication. In many instances, the most effective OCD therapy utilizes both CBT and medication to control a patient’s symptoms.
Certain experts believe that effective OCD therapy should involve alternative treatments such as stress management and hypnosis. Some doctors believe that stress management can not only help patients deal with the anxiety caused by behavior modification but can also help them control extreme or inappropriate reactions to stress, believed by some to either cause or exacerbate the symptoms of OCD. Other therapists believe that, in some cases, OCD is caused by repressed memories of abuse or trauma, and consequently, hypnosis can help patients recall and overcome those repressed memories, thus tackling OCD at its roots. Studies have shown that patients who engage in either relaxation therapy or hypnosis during other types of OCD therapy show a more pronounced improvement in their behavioral symptoms.