While the disorder has some common symptoms, OCD manifests differently for all patients. That is why it’s crucial to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach when treating OCD, as each patient could benefit from a different treatment.
The most common treatments for OCD include medication and cognitive behavior therapy, which are typically paired for better results. However, OCD treatment doesn’t end there. If you feel that your current treatments for OCD aren’t producing notable results, it may be time to change your procedure.
Here are five ways to treat your OCD to help you find the proper treatment for your needs.
Most physicians only prescribe medication for OCD after a thorough psychological evaluation, diagnostic criteria for OCD, and physical exam. Some antidepressants used for OCD treatment include:
- Clomipramine (Anafranil) for adults and children ten years and older
- Fluoxetine (Prozac) for adults and children seven years and older
- Fluvoxamine for adults and children eight years and older
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) for adults only
- Sertraline (Zoloft) for adults and children six years and older
Each medication is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Typically, the goal with OCD medication is to reduce the symptoms at the lowest dose possible, which is why you may need to try several medicines before finding the right one. It may even take weeks to months for a notable difference.
Most importantly, you must note that OCD medication can have strong side effects. That includes drowsiness, dry mouth, insomnia, nervousness, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and headaches.
It’s also worth noting that teenagers and young adults under 25 may experience increased suicidal thoughts during the first few weeks of taking antidepressants.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is typically the first option for OCD treatment, as it mainly focuses on challenging and changing your intrusive thoughts. In addition, for OCD, patients typically receive a specialized cognitive behavior therapy called Exposure and Ritual Prevention (ERP).
Exposure and Ritual Prevention work on two types of OCD association. The first one involves sensations of stress and the sources of these sensations, i.e. objects, situations, or thoughts. The second focuses on carrying out ritualistic behavior to decrease stress. ERP attempts to break the bond between feelings of anxiety and ritualistic behaviors.
During exposure therapy, patients must confront objects or situations that cause anxiety and distress, allowing their anxiety to decrease by staying in the situation longer. For example, they may be exposed to “real life” objects (e.g. contaminated floors) or “invisible” fears (e.g. faith.)
Once the patient is allowed enough time to sit with their fears, their anxiety naturally decreases due to a process called habituation. In certain situations where the patient cannot be exposed to their fears (e.g. their house burning down), they opt for a different type of exposure therapy, named imaginal exposure.
In imaginal exposure, patients must visualize their feared disaster until their anxiety decreases. This exposure must last long and be repeated multiple times to be effective. There’s no doubt that exposure therapy is effective, as 50–60% of patients who complete ERP treatment benefit from improved symptoms.
- Self Care
Of course, if you’re already receiving professional help for OCD, it may improve results to implement some self-help strategies into your routine. Those that find that their OCD isn’t too severe can reduce their symptoms drastically with the help of certain self-care practices.
The best way to improve your OCD symptoms independently is by learning healthy coping strategies for dealing with stress to replace your ritualistic behaviors. That includes sleep, eating well, exercising, meditation, and sticking with your treatment plan.
Managing your anxiety is one of the most challenging tasks as an OCD patient, which is why it’s crucial to find techniques that help you deal with immediate worries, such as paying bills or performing well at school. In addition, you may analyze the probability of your worry coming true and come up with solutions if the worst-case scenario does happen.
Exercise also helps with OCD by releasing growth factors, triggering neurons to make new connections. These new connections have proven to reduce OCD symptoms and release endorphins, also known as the “feel good” neurochemicals.
Lastly, you may explore various relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety after exposure to one of your fears. That includes deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation.
- Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)
While cognitive behavior therapy is effective for most OCD patients, others may have severe symptoms to be reduced by ERP. In such cases, doctors opt for Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), but only for patients that show no improvement in their symptoms after previous treatments like CBT and medication.
While Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is safe, the process is somewhat lengthy. It involves multiple brain scans, which allow your doctor to locate the parts of your brain causing your symptoms. They will also implant a neurostimulator to deliver mild electrical signals to your brain.
This is a small device placed near your collarbone. Once the electrodes are connected, they will carry the electrical current to the neurostimulator. As a result, doctors can send electric signals to your brain and improve OCD symptoms.
While doctors only recommend opting for DBS as a last-case scenario, the procedure is effective for 60% of its patients and has long-term results.
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Approximately 40% of OCD patients do not respond to traditional OCD treatments such as CBT and medication, in which doctors opt for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). This procedure is a non-invasive therapy utilizing magnetic pulses to soothe the parts of your brain which trigger your OCD symptoms.
It’s similar to DBS in many ways, except that they use magnetic pulses instead of electric signals to improve your OCD symptoms. The complete Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatment may require up to 30 sessions for long-term results, with each session being no longer than half an hour.
It’s easy to assume that all OCD patients feel the same way, but each person has different compulsions, obsessions, and intrusive thoughts that manifest uniquely. That’s why it’s essential to do your research and find the right OCD treatment to guarantee better results.