OCD treatment can help you keep your anxiety disorder symptoms under control and improve the quality of your life. However, achieving results through OCD treatments can be a time-consuming and exhausting experience, as you may need to follow an obsessive compulsive disorder treatment plan for the rest of your life.
There are two main approaches to therapy when it comes to coping with the manifestations and symptoms of OCD: psychotherapy and medications, both of them personalized to your situation. While the first one is meant to help you change the way you relate to people and things around you, improve your obsessive and compulsive behaviors and develop a healthier perception of reality, the second alternative aims to reduce your anxiety symptoms by acting directly on your nervous system.
Depending on your body’s response to treatment, you may be recommended a different approach after a while. In case the initially prescribed OCD treatment is not effective and your symptoms get worse, you may be advised to undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), deep brain stimulation or transcranial magnetic stimulation. Psychiatric hospitalization and residential treatment are also viable alternatives in patients with severe forms of obsessive compulsive disorder.
But besides these treatment options, self-help approach plays an extremely important role in managing the symptoms of this psychological condition, therefore understanding how each of the mentioned therapy forms works and becoming part of self-help programs can strongly influence the efficiency of OCD treatments.
OCD manifests through repetitive behaviors triggered by anxiety-inducing situations or thoughts, so the purpose of psychotherapy and counseling is to eradicate these vicious cycles by helping you examine your anxious thoughts, beliefs and behaviors in an objective manner. Once you manage to develop a realistic perception and to adopt a calm attitude towards fear-inducing situations, your self-control will be improved and the repetitive gestures and behavior patterns will become unnecessary.
During psychotherapy sessions, you’ll work with a therapist to identify the thoughts and factors that contribute to your anxiety episodes and trigger your obsessive and compulsive gestures, then you’ll be helped to place these situations in order and you’ll be progressively exposed to each of the identified causes. Exposure therapy will start at lower levels so you’ll have to learn how to deal with your feelings without relying on all the compulsive and obsessive anxiety-relieving manifestations.
This form of OCD treatment will be applied two or three times a day, new fear-causing situations being added during each session so that you learn how to cope with them in a healthy way. Most patients with mild to moderate obsessive compulsive behaviors require around 10 hours of therapy daily, this including not only the psychotherapy and counseling sessions held by a professional but also the exposure exercises done individually, between treatments.
While psychotherapy deals with the underlying causes of this ailment, medications often address only the symptoms of anxiety but they are very helpful in patients who feel too nervous during or between counseling sessions.
The most prescribed medications are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) which act by raising the level of serotonin in the brain and improving the transmission of information through synapses, from one nerve cell to another. Fluoxetine, Citalopram and Sertaline are among the common medications included in obsessive compulsive disorder treatment plans. Although effective, OCD medicines generally need to be taken for long term so it may take around 12 weeks before you actually see some improvements if you only rely on this therapy form.
Antidepressants such as Clomipramine may also be recommended as an alternative to SSRIs medications, generally in patients who don’t experience any benefit from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Unfortunately, both these classes of drugs are associated with important side effects therefore unless your psychologist recommends them it’s better to try a less invasive approach for overcoming your OCD symptoms.
Alternative OCD Treatments for Severe Forms of the Condition
Surgical treatment is generally the last resort for people dealing with psychological disorders and it’s only recommended when all other forms of therapy have failed. During a typical ablation neurosurgery intervention, the surgeon uses electric current or a pulse of radiation to destroy a very small part of the limbic system, the part of your brain responsible for intense emotions, memories and behaviors.
Also an invasive method, but a less common one in patients with OCD is deep brain stimulation, a technique that uses small electrodes attached to your brain’s surface through which electrical signals are delivered directly from a generator attached on your chest. Although through this method positive results were obtained in people with psychiatric illnesses, this treatment option is not yet an established OCD treatment.