Can Behavioral Therapy Help With OCD?

Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapy seeks to change people's reactions to anxiety-provoking situations. A type of behavioral therapy known as "exposure and response prevention" is useful for treating OCD. In this approach, a person is deliberately and voluntarily exposed to whatever triggers the obsessive thoughts, and is then taught techniques to avoid performing the compulsive rituals and to deal with the anxiety. For example, if a person has a fear of dirt and germs, the therapist may encourage him to dirty his hands and then go a certain period without washing. The therapist helps the patient to cope with the resultant anxiety. Eventually, after this exercise has been repeated a number of times, anxiety will diminish.
 
If you undergo behavioral therapy for OCD, exposure will be carried out only when you are ready; it will be done gradually and only with your permission. You will work with the therapist to determine how much you can handle and at what pace you can proceed.
 
A major aim of behavioral therapy is to reduce anxiety by eliminating beliefs or behaviors that help to maintain the condition. For example, performance of compulsive rituals in OCD gives some relief from anxiety and prevents the person from testing rational thoughts about danger, contamination, etc.
 
To be effective as an OCD treatment, behavioral therapy must be directed at the person's specific anxieties. An approach that is effective for a person with a specific phobia about dogs, for example, is not going to help a person with OCD who has intrusive thoughts of harming loved ones. Even for a single disorder such as OCD, it is necessary to tailor the therapy to the person's particular concerns.
 
Behavioral therapy has no adverse side effects other than the temporary discomfort of increased anxiety, but the therapist must be well trained in the techniques of the treatment in order for it to work as desired. During treatment, the therapist probably will assign "homework" -- specific problems that the patient will need to work on between sessions. Behavioral therapy generally lasts about 12 weeks.
 
Medication may be combined with psychotherapy, and for many people, this is the best approach to treating OCD. As stated earlier, it is important to give any treatment a fair chance. And if one approach doesn't work, the odds are that another one will, so don't give up.
 
If you have recovered from OCD and at a later date it recurs, don't consider yourself a failure. Recurrences can be treated effectively, just like an initial episode. In fact, the skills you learned in dealing with the initial episode can be helpful in coping with a setback.
 
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