A look into the most effective OCD treatment.
Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.
When someone first thinks of OCD, the idea of perfectionism and a spotless house come to mind. Or maybe it’s someone flicking a light switch 30 times so your dog doesn’t die.
OCD stands for obsessive-compulsive disorder, meaning someone will go through a ritual of constant thoughts, beliefs that cause anxiety. The anxiety is then fixed with the compulsion that someone develops.
The topic of OCD is one that I am familiar with. I have written on the subject of mental health and OCD to spread awareness and understanding. I want to challenge the stigma that large parts of society still hold to this day,
OCD is an all-consuming disorder that can be damaging to someone. Treatment is helpful but not a cure-all for symptoms. Sometimes the severity of symptoms can make it difficult for someone to seek help.
The mundane tasks that have to be performed to reduce our anxiety are heavily time-consuming. The amount of stress that our obsessions cause us is even worse than the compulsions.
With that being said, for OCD, the recovery rate is around 10% for full recovery and 50% for management of symptoms. This means that people who live with OCD get the proper treatment they need — they have a 10% chance of fully recovering.
With that being said, why is the full recovery rate is so low?
To understand why the full recovery rate is so low, let’s understand what an effective treatment for OCD looks like.
What is exposure therapy?
Also known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), it exposes you to your fear and then modifies your response. Instead of allowing someone to be triggered by their obsessions, a healthier alternative is used.
With that being said, it can be a scary treatment option at first. Not being able to do your compulsions, which you have relied on heavily in the past, is almost world-shattering.
But, exposure therapy is known to be the most effective treatment for OCD. Exposure therapy is not only limited to OCD but other disorders such as phobias, panic, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even anxiety.
Everybody is afraid of something, no matter what.
Being shown the anxiety-producing stimuli will then lead to a response that comes with obsessive thoughts and actions. Exposing our anxiety to our fears and modifying our coping strategies are essential in changing our behavior.
If someone’s fears control their life and nearly every part of who they are, facing them can feel horrifying. Coming from someone who has OCD, exposure therapy can be a terrifying thought; I do not want to come face to face with my obsessions.
Would you want to face your worst fears?
If the most effective method is facing your fears, many people might not want to go that route. For me, I’m not ready for exposure therapy yet. Who would like to do that?
But unfortunately, facing what you are scared of means facing everything head-on. You don’t have much room to go around with that. How else are you able to move on from your fears and obsessions without facing them?
How does exposure therapy work?
Exposure therapy may seem upfront in terms of what to expect. But the execution of exposure therapy can vary significantly from person to person. Exposure therapy has to be executed properly under the guidance of a licensed therapist for this treatment to work.
So, to better understand precisely how exposure therapy works, a verywellmind states:
“Exposure-based treatments take advantage of a natural process called habituation. Habituation occurs when a person stops responding or paying attention to a stimulus, such as a thought, object, place, person or action, with repeated exposure. (Exposure therapy for OCD)”
Essentially, habituation is having regular, constant external stimuli (such as traffic noise, chatter in a busy station, etc.) — whatever is outside of us all becomes the background in our lives.
The objective of exposure therapy aims to make fears, anxieties, and phobias, become a part of our everyday life — minus the anxiety and panic! Essentially, we want our outside world’s scary and fearful aspects to become nothing more than the usual.
You see them all the time, so there is nothing new to explore from this point. Our brain will ignore the stimuli that once frightened us.
Although exposure therapy may be the most effective treatment option, we are still left with everyday symptoms.
The daily management of OCD is unique to each person. Daily OCD management can include practicing stress-reducing techniques and focusing on managing your anxiety.
Overall, treatment is the best route for OCD, no matter what that may look like for you. Through daily management, under the care of a licensed mental health professional, there is sure to be a hopeful future.
When we become afraid of something, we avoid it. If we prevent a problem, we are stopping it from it ever being a stressor for us. Exposure therapy works by exposing someone to stimuli or situations that are anxiety-provoking.
Over time, there becomes a reliance on that compulsion to get rid of the negative feelings. There is such a strong bond between obsession and compulsion. That compulsion is considered a maladaptive coping strategy.
Our constant fear and obsessions are rooted in our everyday life. Learning to navigate this can be tricky.
This doesn’t mean that you will be that 90% who doesn’t recover — nor does this mean treatment is hopeless!
Even with the odds not in our favor, that doesn’t have to determine our life outcome. 10% is just a number to help us understand how many people fully recover from OCD.
10% who do recover are those who do not relapse again. So people living with OCD can still recover, but many may not reach full recovery.
Although the recovery rate for OCD is relatively low, the management of symptoms is at 50%, which leaves a lot of hope. Although many who have OCD will not achieve a full recovery, we still hope for daily management.