This should go without saying, but treating OCD should only be done by an experienced professional that knows and understands your specific case. There is tremendous variability from person to person. Treatment does tend to follow a common path. OCD treatment includes:
- Medication. Research shows that medication is essential in treatment of OCD. Once the diagnosis is established by a mental health professional, medication will be started and given some time to become effective (usually four to six weeks) before other treatments will begin. There are several medications proven useful for OCD with Prozac, Luvox and Paxil being some the most popular.
- Relaxation. While the medication is beginning to work, a therapist will teach you relaxation skills. These skills will include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery. Calming your body is important for preparing you for future discomfort as well as providing damage control when anxious symptoms are high. Practice will be necessary since relaxation is a skill that many with OCD lack.
- Exposure. Your therapist will work with you to create a list of thought, items and situations that trigger your anxiety. You will rank the list from the least anxiety-provoking to the most anxiety-provoking. Starting at the bottom, your therapist will expose you to your fear. If you obsess about germs, you will dig through a garbage can. If you obsess about light switches, you will not be able to flip them more than once. This will increase your anxiety, which is the point.
- Response Prevention. Your therapist will have you rate your stress along the way to track the changes. Over time being exposed to your triggers, your anxiety will begin to decrease. The response prevention aspect is not completing the compulsion after the exposure. You will not be able to wash your hands, check the curling iron, flip the light switch or count your steps.
Through this process, you retrain your mind to break the association between the obsessions, compulsions and the fear. You learn that, somehow, the world does not end if you take 13 steps, and your house will not burn down if you do not check your curling iron. As far as mental health treatments go, this pattern has been extremely effective over the years.
If OCD is a part of your life, take the steps to address and resolve the issue. Equally important, if anxiety is a part of your life, taking steps to seek treatment now will prevent your symptoms from growing and morphing into OCD. Anxiety plus time can equal a more difficult, life-changing disorder. Avoid OCD to find peace of mind.