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What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT for OCD uses a technique called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). In this approach, the individual with OCD deliberately and voluntarily exposes him/herself to feared objects or ideas (the exposure component), either directly or by imagination, and then refrains from carrying out their usual compulsive response (the response prevention component).

For example, a compulsive hand washer may touch an object believed to be contaminated, and then refrain from hand washing for several hours. The individual with OCD gradually experiences less anxiety from the obsessive thoughts and becomes increasingly able to resist the urge to do compulsive behaviors. The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) provides a directory that can assist you in locating a qualified outpatient therapist.

What Medications are used to Treat OCD?

Studies have shown that a number of medications are useful in treating OCD. The majority of the drugs that help OCD are classified as antidepressants, but not all antidepressants have been shown to be effective in treating OCD. All medications have their own side effects and risks. Talk to your doctor before starting any medications.

How Effective are Treatments for OCD?

Most studies show that, on average, about 70 percent of patients with OCD will benefit from either medication or CBT. Patients who respond to medication usually show a 40-60 percent reduction in OCD symptoms, while those who respond to CBT often report a 60-80 percent reduction in OCD symptoms. However, medications have to be taken on a regular basis, and patients must actively participate in CBT for the treatments to work. Unfortunately, studies show that at least 25 percent of OCD patients refuse CBT, and as many as half of OCD patients discontinue medicines due to side effects or for other reasons.