Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

By Pam Cohen, LCPC, CPC

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects approximately one in 100 adults and one in 200 children and teens. There seems to be no difference as to whom OCD will affect based on studies of gender, racial or economic backgrounds.

OCD is categorized as an Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger. At times, anxiety is necessary to keep us safe because it warns us of potential threats to our safety and well being. People suffering from OCD have an anxiety response to a danger that they perceive; yet they react as if the danger is real. There are two components of OCD: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts, images, or impulses that cause the body to believe there is a real danger and are what creates the anxiety. The compulsions are made up of the behaviors that an individual engages in to relieve themselves of the distress from their anxiety.

Obsessive behaviors often take the form of: Compulsive behaviors are often made up of:
  • Contamination
  • Hoarding
  • Harming
  • Ordering
  • Religious
  • Losing control
  • Body image
  • Perfectionism
  • Health
  • Sexual thoughts
  • Aggression
  • Checking
  • Repeating or counting
  • Hoarding or saving
  • Cleaning or washing
  • Body image - checking or fixing perceived flaws or defects
  • Health related - excessively checking body, going to the doctor, getting tests, and seeking reassurance

Studies show that the most effective treatment for OCD is using a combination of medication, family support, psycho-education and a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) intervention called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

When perceived danger occurs, the person engages in behavior to reduce the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety. ERP interrupts this connection. Exposure is the initial step in ERP and is used in a controlled setting to bring a client’s thoughts, images, or impulses to mind in order to create anxiety. Doing so reinforces the body’s belief that there is, in fact, a danger. With Response Prevention, the sufferer chooses instead to sit with the uncomfortable anxiety until the symptoms reduce. Eventually, habituation will occur if the person is committed to preventing the response or behavior that is defining his or her OCD.

Many of the counselors at Arbor Counseling are qualified to work with clients who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder using ERP as a form of therapy. It has proven to be very effective and many clients have overcome their OCD as a result.