Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations (obsessions) and engage in behaviors or mental acts in response to these thoughts or obsessions. Often the person carries out the behaviors to reduce the impact or get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only brings temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. A person’s level of OCD can be anywhere from mild to severe, but if left untreated, it can limit his or her ability to function at work or school or even to lead a comfortable existence at home or around others.
OCD affects about 2.2 million American adults, and the problem can be accompanied by other anxiety disorders, depression, and eating disorders. It strikes men and women in roughly equal numbers and usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. One-third of adults with OCD developed symptoms as children, and research indicates that OCD might run in families.
There are subsets of OCD identified by the particular areas in which someone has obsessive thoughts. These include:
- Harm OCD (intrusive thoughts of unknowingly causing harm to self or others),
- Pedophilia OCD (intrusive thoughts of harming a child sexually),
- Religious OCD, also called Scrupulosity (fear of having blasphemous thoughts or actions),
- Contamination OCD (fear of being contaminated or causing contamination),
- Somatic OCD (fear of having a disease or problem with one’s body).
This is not an exhaustive list but provides an idea as to the many presentations of OCD. However it manifests itself, OCD is best treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) and Exposure Response and Prevention (ERP). ERP teaches you the skills you need to manage the disorder.
What is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)?
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a cognitive behavioral technique that is used to effectively treat a number of Anxiety disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Phobias and others.
The EXPOSURE involves exposure to feared stimuli such as, thoughts, images, or real life objects. The RESPONSE PREVENTION involves modifying the old response to the feared stimuli such as to prevent escape or avoidant behaviors.
The purpose of ERP is to foster inhibitory learning and habituation. The inhibitory learning model offers the patient an opportunity to generate new cognitive learning that forms new relationships, which override the fear-based associations. This is known as “excitatory meaning.” The goal of the inhibitory learning model is to successfully contradict the old associations to the feared stimuli and achieve a decrease level of anxiety and avoidant behavior. Habituation occurs when you no longer respond to the stimuli in the same way.