If you are suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), counselling and psychotherapy can help you regain control over the associated thoughts and rituals that are affecting your life.
The sooner you seek treatment for OCD, the better the prognosis.
Although it is never too late to get help, early treatment can help keep the symptoms of OCD and its disruptions to your daily life, to a minimum.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychological problem that is characterised by repeated unwanted thoughts that lead to repeatedly performing the same tasks, in an attempt to get rid of the thoughts. For example, you might find you need to check repeatedly that all your appliances are turned off before you leave your house each day, or you might think that everything around you is covered in germs and the only way to feel better about it, is to wash your hands many times throughout the day.
This disorder contains two components:
These are the unwanted thoughts that lead to anxiety or fear. Typical examples of obsessions include things such as:
- Constant worry about becoming ill and a heightened awareness in the body assuming and checking whether sensations are symptoms of something “bad”.
- A strong drive to do everything perfectly so everything takes a long time to do and tasks may have to be checked repeatedly to ensure “perfection”.
These are behaviours that you repeatedly engage in to try to get control over your obsessions. Examples of these can include things like:
- Repeatedly checking that you have turned the stove is off before your leave the house or even having to return to the house to check once you have left
- Washing your hands repeatedly because you feel worried everything around you is covered in germs and this is the only way to feel better.
- Hoarding items such as never throwing away newspapers or other household or personal objects.
- Repetitive counting, for example you may feel compelled to wash your hair 10 times because that is the “right number” to get it clean.
If you suspect that you might have OCD, a course of psychotherapy treatment can be very helpful, if your obsessions and compulsions:
Generally speaking, anywhere between 13 and 20 sessions are typically enough to note dramatic improvements. In some cases, when obsessions are particularly debilitating, you may benefit from taking anti-depressant medication in conjunction with counselling or psychotherapy. Medication is typically administered under the guidance of a doctor and tends to be used in the short-term, if needed.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is shown to be particularly effective in the treatment of OCD. This type of counselling aims to show people that it is not just the thoughts that are the problem; instead, it is also the way that you act upon the thoughts that leads to difficulties. CBT can help you recognise flawed thinking and show you how to replace problematic thought patterns with healthier and more positively productive perspectives and behaviours. It may be used in conjunction with other types of therapy for OCD, such as exposure and response prevention.
Because the main focus in CBT therapy for OCD is upon current triggers and how to understand and manage them, at KlearMinds, when useful, we include psychotherapy approaches into the work that can help you address historic aspects of obsessive compulsive disorder, that are not addressed by a CBT approach alone. This means that you don’t just learn how to address current triggers but you also understand their problematic roots. This can lead to a more lasting and comprehensive addressing of OCD, which can powerfully help to prevent future relapses.
Psychotherapy for OCD can take place individually or in a group setting. When it can be helpful and suitable, your therapist might recommend that you bring family members with you to some sessions or ask to meet with them separately, to help support your recovery and management of OCD symptoms.
These days Counselling for OCD is often a label used to describe a CBT or psychotherapy approach. As with psychotherapy, any counselling approach used will be most effective if it integrates elements of cognitive behavioural therapy into the work.
Cognitive therapy is also effective in helping people deal with OCD. It focuses on several components of the disorder:
With cognitive therapy, your interpretation of your fear is challenged and reinterpreted in a way that gives you control over the behaviours that arise from your fears. Your therapist might also employ thought records. This entails keeping a record of the intrusive thoughts you experience and detailing the circumstances surrounding the thoughts as well as your feelings and reactions to the thoughts. Your therapist will use this information to help you identify cognitive distortions and develop more appropriate responses.
Exposure and response prevention counselling can also be used to treat OCD. This approach involves repeatedly exposing yourself to your obsession and then denying yourself the ritual compulsive action. For example, you might have to touch something you fear is dirty and then resist the urge to wash your hands afterward. This is something that usually occurs within a therapy session under the guidance of your therapist at first, but you might eventually be instructed to also do this on your own.
At the beginning of therapy, you might be asked to list your rituals and obsessions and then rank each one according to the amount of anxiety it induces (for example, things like shaking hands or using the bathroom for those with a fear of germs). You might start by tackling something that only causes a moderate amount of anxiety and then work your way up to bigger issues. The pace of therapy is always designed to enable you to tackle rituals and obsessions at a manageable pace.
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