Helping Your Clients Overcome OCD

Helping Your Clients Overcome OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic mental illness, marked by an uncontrollable and nagging urge to perform an action, make a certain sound, or even revisit a certain thought.  While living with OCD can be debilitating, there are treatments which can help.  This post explores some of the top considerations for your clients.

Credit:  This post is inspired by this article on from Dr. Fred Penzel, an excellent resource for those living with OCD.


1. OCD's Main Feature is Doubt

We do not presently know why, but feelings of doubt are hallmarks of the disorder.  In fact, OCD was once referred to as "the doubting disease."  Patients suffer from intense doubt about their perceptions, whether their actions affect the world around them, and even their own memories.  This is what leads them to check and re-check light switches, ovens, locks, etc.  It is what leads them to believe irrational fears that if they do not perform a ritual, strangers or loved ones will suffer in some way.

Once once sufferers accept the futility of this doubt can they begin to make progress.


2. Patients Can Resist Performing A Compulsion, But Not The Thought Behind It

These compulsions to perform rituals, sounds, etc., can to some degree be controlled.  However, clients must realize and accept that the urge to "compulse" is chemically generated in the brain, and ignoring or resisting the thought itself is not possible. Instead, your clients should understand that their fears, doubts, etc, must be confronted.


3. Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy is an Essential Treatment for OCD

Research has found that since OCD contains non-psychological components, ordinary talk therapy may not be completely effective at relieving the symptoms of OCD.  Instead, the most effective treatment is thought to be "Exposure & Response Prevention" or E&RP.

E&RP consists of confronting fearful thoughts, situations, and other anxiety-causing stimuli in a controlled environment, and in small doses.  The objective is to sit with the resulting anxiety until it passes, so that the patient learns there is an end to the anxiety, and they need not fear it, and they need not entertain their compulsion to neutralize it.  Repeated sessions of E&RP will lesson the impact that causes the underlying anxiety which is thought to be the source of the OCD compulsions.


4. Recovery Takes Time

Clients understandably want to rid themselves of their OCD as quickly as possible, but they need to be counseled that the process can take time.  Some experts believe that average symptoms may take months or up to a year to be resolved.  This is especially true if the underlying cause of the anxiety which triggers the episodes of OCD is persistent in the client's life.

However long it takes, the client should understand that there is no such thing as "partially recovered."  If they cease their efforts once symptoms have lessened, they are more likely to relapse down the road.

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