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  • Writer's pictureJim Ciraky

Which Psychotherapy Is Used to Treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Have you ever had thoughts or worries that just won't go away, no matter how hard you try to push them out of your mind? Or maybe you find yourself doing certain things over and over again, like checking if the door is locked or washing your hands until they're raw?

If this sounds familiar, you might be dealing with an anxiety disorder called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). But don't worry, there's a type of psychotherapy for anxiety like OCD that can help.

Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

One important part of CBT for OCD is understanding how the disorder works. Your therapist might use the analogy of a wave to explain the cycle of obsessions and compulsions.

Imagine your urge to perform a compulsive ritual as a wave that starts small but gradually builds up and up, getting stronger and more intense. As soon as you give in and perform the ritual, the wave goes down, and your anxiety goes away – but only for a little while.

The wave will start building up again, and the cycle continues unless you learn to ride out the wave without giving in to your compulsions. CBT, a type of psychotherapy for anxiet, helps you develop the skills to let the wave of anxiety pass without needing to perform rituals.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

The main type of psychotherapy for anxiety used to treat OCD is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a kind of therapy that helps you understand and change the way you think and behave. It's like having a coach who teaches you new ways to deal with your worries and compulsions.

In CBT, you'll work with a therapist who is an expert in treating OCD. They'll help you learn different techniques to manage your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Here are some of the things you might learn:

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

ERP is a really important part of CBT for OCD. It's a bit like facing your fears, but in a safe and controlled way. Your therapist will ask you to expose yourself to the things that trigger your obsessions and compulsions, and then help you resist the urge to perform your compulsive behaviors.

For example, if you're afraid of germs and have a compulsion to wash your hands over and over, your therapist might ask you to touch a doorknob and then not wash your hands immediately. It might feel scary at first, but over time, you'll learn that nothing bad happens when you don't give in to your compulsions.

Imaginal Exposure

Sometimes, it's easier to start with imaginal exposure before doing real-life exposures. This is like using your imagination to picture yourself in situations that make you anxious. Your therapist will help you practice this until you feel more comfortable moving on to real-life exposures.

Habit Reversal Training

This is another technique that can be really helpful for people with OCD. It involves learning to be more aware of your compulsive behaviors and then practicing new behaviors to replace them. For example, if you have a tic or a habit of touching things in a certain way, your therapist might teach you a different movement or action to do instead.

Cognitive Therapy

In addition to these techniques, CBT also includes cognitive therapy. This part of the therapy helps you understand that your obsessive thoughts are just thoughts and not something you need to pay attention to or act on. Your therapist will teach you ways to recognize these thoughts and respond to them in a more positive and realistic way.

OCD can be treated with the right guidance, support and professional psychotherapists. Have faith and confidence and see which type of psychotherapy for anxiety works best for you.

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