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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD: How It Can Help You Overcome Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Get on the right path for healing by utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD. Read on to learn more about how this therapy can help you.

Table of Contents

Understanding OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental health condition that is marked by two main symptoms: obsessions and compulsions. 

Finding effective treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD can help you work through your OCD symptoms. 

cognitive behavioral therapy for ocd

Classifying OCD: What are Obsessions and Compulsions?

Obsessions are intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that cause distress. Compulsions are repeated behaviors or mental acts that you might feel driven to perform in response to an obsession.

What Causes OCD?

The exact cause of OCD isn’t fully understood. It’s likely a combination of factors. These include genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental influences.Research suggests that if you have a family member with OCD, you are more likely to develop the disorder.1

Brain imaging studies have also shown differences in certain areas of the brain in people with OCD, suggesting a role for brain structure and function. Environmental factors, such as stressful events or childhood trauma, can also play a role.2

How Common Is OCD?

OCD is a common mental health disorder. It affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1.2% of adults in the United States had OCD in the past year. This means that more than 2 million adults in the US experience OCD each year.3

OCD can begin at any age, but it most often starts in adolescence or early adulthood. Both men and women are equally as likely to develop OCD. The disorder may also affect people regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

Fortunately, OCD is treatable. Cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD is one of the most widely accepted and effective treatments for OCD.

Symptoms of OCD

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, is a guide used by professionals to diagnose OCD.

According to this guide, for a diagnosis of OCD, the obsessions or compulsions must take up a lot of time (more than one hour per day), cause significant distress, or interfere with your daily activities or relationships.4

Common Obsessions in OCD

Obsessions are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that cause distress or anxiety. These aren’t just everyday worries or fears. They are thoughts that persist and interfere with your daily life.

Some common examples of obsessions for those with OCD include a fear of contamination or having uncontrollable fears of harming yourself or others.

Common Compulsions in OCD

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that you feel driven to perform. These are usually in response to an obsessive thought. The purpose of these compulsions is to reduce the distress caused by the obsessions.

Common compulsions for those with OCD include checking doors repeatedly to make sure they’re locked, or washing one’s hands until the skin is raw.

Insight and Resistance in OCD

In OCD, you typically have some degree of insight into your symptoms. This means that you know your obsessions and compulsions are excessive or don’t make sense. However, even though you might recognize this, it can still be very difficult to resist or stop these thoughts and behaviors.

OCD can be challenging to deal with, but there are treatments available that can help. One such treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD.

Types of OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder is not the same for everyone. There are different types of OCD, and each one has its own unique set of symptoms. These different types can help doctors better understand what you’re experiencing and how best to help you.

If you recognize any of these types, cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD may be a way to help manage them.

Some of the most common types of OCD include:

Contamination OCD

In contamination OCD, you might worry excessively about dirt, germs, or diseases. This can lead to repeated washing or cleaning. For example, you might clean your home excessively or avoid public places for fear of germs.

Checking OCD

In checking OCD, you might have a strong need to repeatedly check things to prevent harm. This could include checking that the stove is off or that you didn’t hit anyone while driving. You do this even when you know these actions are unnecessary.

Symmetry and Order OCD

In symmetry and order OCD, you might feel a strong desire for things to be arranged just right, or to perform actions in a certain order. If things are not symmetrical or done in the right order, you might feel anxious or unsettled.

Hoarding OCD

In hoarding OCD, you might have difficulty getting rid of items, even those of little or no value. This can lead to cluttered living spaces and can cause significant distress or impairment in daily life.

Intrusive Thoughts OCD

With intrusive thoughts OCD, you might experience unwanted and disturbing thoughts, images, or urges. These thoughts can be about a variety of topics, such as fear of harming others, inappropriate sexual thoughts, or religious concerns.

Impact of OCD Symptoms on Daily Life

OCD symptoms can make daily routines more difficult. Things that should be simple, like getting dressed or leaving the house, can become time-consuming tasks.

For example, if you have checking OCD, you might need to check that the stove is off many times before you can leave the house. This can make you late for work, school, or other commitments.

OCD and Relationships

OCD can also affect your relationships with others. It can be hard for others to understand why you need to do certain things or why you can’t stop worrying. This can lead to feelings of frustration or misunderstanding on both sides.

It’s not uncommon for relationships to feel strained when you’re dealing with OCD. If this is true for you, cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD can help you improve communication with your loved ones.

Work or School Performance

OCD symptoms can impact your ability to focus and concentrate. This can make work or school more challenging.

You might find it hard to complete tasks on time because your OCD symptoms are distracting you. Or, you might avoid certain tasks or situations at work or school because they cause your OCD symptoms.

Mental Health

Living with OCD can be stressful. This constant stress can lead to other mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. It’s not your fault if you’re feeling this way, as many people with OCD experience these feelings.5

Remember, there are treatments available, like cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD, that can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that helps you change your thought patterns. In CBT, you work with a therapist to identify and challenge thoughts that are not helpful.

For example, in cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD, you would learn to identify thoughts that lead to obsessive behaviors and then learn how to change those thoughts.

Principles and Goals of CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all linked. If you change one, it can affect the others.

The goal of CBT is to help you develop new ways of thinking that can lead to changes in your behavior. For example, if you have OCD, CBT can help you learn to think in ways that reduce obsessive behaviors.

Is CBT Effective?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence-based treatment. This means it has been tested in scientific studies and shown to be effective for many people. For OCD, research has shown that cognitive therapy can help reduce symptoms and improve functioning.6

How CBT Can Help Alleviate Symptoms of OCD

Cognitive restructuring is a key part of cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD. This process involves changing the way you think about your obsessions and compulsions.

You first learn to notice when you’re having thoughts that aren’t accurate or helpful. In cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD, you learn to see obsessive behaviors as a cognitive distortion: a thought that isn’t true.

Once you’ve identified a distorted thought, you can work on changing it. So, instead of thinking you need to wash your hands again, you might learn to tell yourself that your hands are clean enough.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

ERP is another important part of cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD. It involves facing your fears and resisting your compulsive behaviors.

In ERP, you start by facing small fears and gradually work up to bigger ones. For example, you might first touch something slightly dirty, then something dirtier, and so on.

The other part of ERP is preventing compulsive behavior. So, after touching something dirty, you then also resist the urge to wash your hands. This helps you learn that you can tolerate the anxiety and the urge will pass.

Developing Coping Strategies and Problem-Solving Skills

In cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD, you also learn new ways to deal with stress and solve problems. For instance, you might learn relaxation techniques to help manage anxiety, or strategies for solving problems that cause your OCD symptoms.

Enhancing Self-Awareness and Mindfulness

CBT can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. This is often done through mindfulness exercises, where you learn to pay attention to the present moment without judgment. You will learn to recognize your own unhelpful patterns and beliefs so that you can make changes.

Maintenance and Relapse Prevention in CBT for OCD

Once you’ve learned these new skills in cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD, the final step is to keep using them.

You learn to spot signs that your OCD symptoms may be coming back, and you can then use your CBT skills to prevent a full relapse. This helps you keep your symptoms under control over the long term.

Key Components of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD

In cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD, the first step is assessment. This is when the therapist gets to know about you and your OCD symptoms. They will ask you about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Setting Treatment Goals

Next, you and your therapist decide on what you want to achieve in therapy. These are your treatment goals. For example, you might want to reduce the time spent on compulsive behaviors, or decrease the anxiety caused by obsessions.

Individualized Treatment Planning

Cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD is not a one-size-fits-all treatment. Your therapist will make a plan just for you. This plan is based on your specific symptoms and goals. Your therapist will listen to you and use your input to shape the plan.

Psychoeducation About OCD and CBT

Psychoeducation means learning about your condition and the treatment. In this case, you learn about how cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD can help. This understanding can help you feel more comfortable and confident about the therapy process.

Regular Monitoring and Feedback

Throughout therapy, your therapist checks in with you regularly. They ask about your progress and any changes in your symptoms. You also have the chance to give feedback about how you feel the therapy is going.

Homework Assignments and Practice

CBT often involves tasks for you to do between sessions, or homework. These might include practicing new skills or keeping track of your thoughts and feelings.

Duration of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD

Cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD typically lasts between 12 to 20 sessions. These sessions usually happen once a week. Each session lasts about an hour. This timeline is flexible. It depends on your needs and how fast you make progress.

Factors Affecting Treatment Duration

Several factors can change how long you need cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD. These factors include the severity of your OCD, how fast you learn and apply new skills, and how much support you have outside of therapy.

More severe OCD or less support might mean you need more sessions. Making fast progress could mean you need fewer sessions.

Adjustments and Progress Evaluation

At the end of cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD, your therapist will review your progress and make any necessary adjustments.

If you still need help, or if OCD has started to interfere with other areas of life, they may suggest other types of treatment like medication or outpatient programs. Your therapist will also provide follow-up care as needed or referral to support groups or other resources.

How Can Boardwalk Recovery Help With CBT for OCD?

Boardwalk Recovery is a place where individuals struggling with substance use or mental health disorders can find help. We offer a safe and welcoming environment where people can focus on getting better.

Specialized Expertise in OCD Treatment

Boardwalk Recovery has a team of skilled therapists who specialize in treating OCD using CBT. We are knowledgeable about the unique challenges faced by those with OCD, and we are trained to provide effective treatments that can help you manage your symptoms.

At Boardwalk Recovery, your journey starts with a thorough assessment. This helps our team understand your specific needs and symptoms.

Using this information, we then design a treatment plan that is tailored to you, focusing on the techniques and strategies that will be most beneficial for your situation.

Insurance Coverage for CBT in Boardwalk Recovery

We encourage you to reach out to us, and we will evaluate your insurance to see if you’re covered for our programs. We will help in any way we can to make sure you get the care and support you need.

Get in touch with us today if you or a loved one are struggling with OCD symptoms. We can get you on the path to healing.

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