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OCD Interventions and Treatment

When a loved one is suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is essential to remember that they are dealing with a severe mental health disorder. While the symptoms can cause strain for friends and family, the person with OCD has little to no control over these compulsions. They are driven by a deep fear that something will go wrong if they do not follow through with their rituals. Around 2.3% of the population has OCD, making it a relatively common anxiety disorder. There is no cure, but there are effective OCD interventions and treatments making it possible to manage symptoms through therapy and medication.

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What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, or OCD, is a mental health disorder. The most prominent symptom is the obsessive repetition of certain behaviors or compulsive rituals, often stemming from feelings of deep anxiety about what will go wrong if they do not perform these behaviors. Logic does little to combat the need to perform compulsive behavior.

  • Obsessions: Intrusive thoughts that the person cannot avoid.
  • Compulsions: Actions taken to relieve anxiety from obsessive thoughts.
There is no specific cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder known to experts, and it does seem to run in families, so genetics and environmental factors can likely play a role.
Symptoms of OCD can begin in childhood, although it will more commonly happen in the teen or young adult years. Once an individual starts to show symptoms of OCD, they generally continue to have symptoms for the rest of their life. However, treatment through therapy and medication can mitigate the impact.

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How Do I Know if My Loved One Has OCD?

The most identifiable element of OCD is the repetition of compulsive behaviors. It is important to understand that this does not mean that someone who is always extremely tidy or organized, wants to have things a certain way, or is always planning their time very specifically. For behavior to be considered OCD, it needs to be an involuntary compulsion towards certain behaviors and obsessive thoughts, resistant to the fact that the person usually knows the actions are illogical and all-consuming. 

Specific things to look out for are: 

  • Extreme fear of germs or dirt, someone with OCD may wash their hands even as it causes pain and damage to the skin
  • Repeatedly checking certain things, like locked doors or stove burners, needing reassurance that they are locked or off. 
  • Needing to have things in a certain order or number pairings, for example, needing to turn a light switch on and off an even number of times
  • Intrusive thoughts of aggression, sexuality, or religion
  • Repetitive counting, grouping, and organizing
  • Repeating phrases 
  • Extreme anxiety when the person is unable to complete their rituals

When deciding if therapy or intervention is needed for your loved one, the main consideration is if their anxiety around the compulsions impacts their quality of daily life. If the need to follow their compulsive behavior is causing problems with work, family, and friends or distress in other areas of life – it is likely time to seek treatment. 

Be mindful that your loved one may be resistant to treatment. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder believe that serious harm will occur if they do not complete their behaviors, but symptoms can be managed with time and therapy.

How Do I Support a Loved One While They Are in Treatment?

A support system is crucial for someone working through OCD treatment. As family or friends, one of the most important things to do is get educated about OCD. Understanding the symptoms and root causes goes a long way toward helping OCD patients during treatment and understanding what they are going through.

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Does OCD Cause Other Health Problems?

Other Mental Health Problems

OCD is frequently seen in conjunction with other anxiety disorders and mental health challenges. Often, the person with OCD understands that their compulsive behavior is illogical and frustrating, but they cannot stop. This can cause isolation and additional feelings of depression and anxiety, which toll on general mental health and happiness. People who have 

OCD also tend to be predisposed to other anxiety orders. A medical professional can help diagnose if this is happening to you or your loved one, and therapy can often be helpful with the treatment of multiple mental health disorders. 

Drug Abuse

Someone living with OCD symptoms may turn to substance abuse to self-medicate. The deep feelings of anxiety and stress are extremely uncomfortable, so it is not uncommon for someone to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. In these cases, a specific treatment plan with therapy that targets both concerns will be needed for the patient to regain control of their life. 

Compulsions Can Cause Harm

OCD compulsions can sometimes include violent impulses, or the repetition itself can begin to cause harm. An example is someone whose compulsions drive them to be so terrified of germs that they continue washing their hands even as the skin becomes raw. 

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What Are The Treatment Options for OCD?

Depending on the severity and any other anxiety disorders at play, there are treatment options for managing OCD symptoms. A combination of medication and psychological therapies will be used in many patients. Stress management also plays a role in treating OCD, as high stress can trigger symptoms to worsen in many patients. 

SSRI treatment or the prescription of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can make the OCD symptoms and feelings of anxiety more manageable for the patient; they can also treat depression symptoms that may come along with a person’s OCD. This is often the first-line treatment. It will get the patient feeling better to put in the effort needed to participate successfully in exposure therapy and learn healthy ways of coping with obsessions and compulsions. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors can have side effects and interact with other medications, so it is important to be transparent with your medical professional to ensure this is a good choice. 

Mood stabilizers are another medication option for those who do not tolerate SSRIs or do not see success with them. 

Appropriate pharmacotherapy can be an effective starting point for treating OCD, as medications can also assist in the treatment of other mental illness symptoms that may arise in conjunction with OCD. While they are generally safe and widely used in treatment, there is always some risk. 

SSRIs and mood stabilizers need to be taken every day as directed by a doctor. Suddenly stopping or taking more than prescribed can cause serious health problems. Patients should be monitored and aware of the potential side effects, especially while getting adjusted to a new medication or dose. Often, medications take time to build up in a person’s system, and during this time, the body can go through a challenging adjustment period. 

Outpatient methods to treat OCD include evidence-based psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy – specifically exposure and response prevention therapy. 

Exposure and response prevention therapy is a type of cognitive therapy. A therapist will essentially trigger the person’s compulsions, not allow them to complete their compulsion, and train their brain to experience anxiety adapting to those feelings until it is more tolerable. A person can regain control of their behavior. ERP therapy would be done in a therapist’s office and requires regular sessions to manage symptoms. This cognitive-behavioral therapy is generally considered the most effective and common therapeutic treatment for OCD. 

For younger patients who develop symptoms in their childhood or teenage years, parents should seek out help specializing in adolescent psychiatry. Young adults have different needs, so tailoring their treatment plan makes for more effective treatment for OCD. Seeking treatment early on can mitigate other related disorders that may arise due to the constant anxiety that OCD patients experience. 

In a more intensive outpatient setting, patients in treatment may attend multiple behavioral therapy sessions and support groups full-time during the day. 

Patients can also attend support groups, which helps build a support network of people who understand what they are going through during exposure therapy and other aspects of treatment. 

In more severe OCD cases, specifically with treatment-resistant patients who are at imminent risk of harming themselves, OCD intervention with an inpatient program may be necessary. There are varying levels to this; if a patient can decide and feel they need more intensive treatment, a person may attend a residential program voluntarily. If a person cannot care for themselves, they may need to have therapeutic interventions or be hospitalized in extremely severe cases. 

An inpatient facility will allow professionals to monitor the patient and ensure they do not harm themselves while setting up an intensive treatment plan for that person. This will usually include a combination of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and response prevention therapy used in outpatient cases – layered with additional supervision and support throughout treatment. Therapy sessions in a treatment center will frequently include sessions in a group format and a patient’s therapy. 

If you or a loved one is looking for help with OCD symptoms and want more information about treatment and therapy options, our compassionate staff is ready to answer your questions and provide guidance. Call (866) 584-2525 to speak with a compassionate staff member and begin your road to freedom. 

Most OCD patients will make significant progress with psychological therapies and medications. However, sometimes more severe OCD cases can be treatment-resistant. For these patients, surgical treatment may be an option. 

Deep brain stimulation is a neurosurgical procedure where electrodes are implanted into specific points of a patient’s brain – the physician can then administer controlled amounts of electrical stimulation to that area. This type of treatment has historically been used for Parkinson’s patients, but more recent studies have shown success in reducing OCD symptoms. 

It is important to note that there is not yet enough research on this procedure for it to be a first-line treatment. It would only be considered when other therapies have been exhausted, and the patient’s mental health condition has not improved.

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Support for Family Members of an OCD Patient

There are support groups available for the family and friends of patients struggling with extreme OCD. These can be online or in-person and provide social support and tips for helping your loved one through treatment. If needed, family members may attend therapy sessions to talk through the challenges they may be facing.