Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is estimated to affect between 1.5 to 3% of the American population. As the name suggests, the disorder manifests as repeated compulsions as a result of recurrent obsessions. When it comes to seeking treatment for this condition, doctors traditionally turn to cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
While scientists have yet to find a definitive cause of OCD, it is believed to be the result of miscommunication within the brain. There appears to be a correlation within the genetic, behavioral, neurobiological, and biological triggers that cause these obsessive compulsions.
Each branch of these beliefs has individual perceptions of the condition. Cognitive theorists believe that these patients misinterpret unhealthy thoughts, validate them, and perform behaviors in an attempt to resist them. Others believe that OCD is a learned behavior resulting from conditioning; years of attributing wiping down counters to clean messes reaches an obsessive degree in order to alleviate any anxiety of uncleanliness.
When studying images of the brain, researchers have discovered a faulty line of communication between the orbitofrontal cortex, striatum, anterior cingulate cortex, and the thalamus. In these studies, it was also discovered that various chemical systems in the brain are also involved in the abnormalities of OCD including serotonin, glutamate, and endorphins.
While OCD is commonly represented in the media, it’s often done incorrectly or in an exaggerated manner. A patient with OCD may have a trigger of uncleanliness in which they feel an obsessive compulsion to scrub a surface or clear a space repeatedly. While many may feel a need to keep things organized and feel a slight cringe at something not following suit, a patient with OCD cannot release this feeling of anxiety and will repeatedly attempt to find a remedy.
How can CBT Help?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most commonly used form of treatment for patients living with OCD. In some cases, medications will be paired with CBT in order to see the best results. The role of medication in these instances is typically to reduce the anxiety triggers that cause obsessive behaviors in the patients.
CBT therapy is categorized as a version of talk therapy, but differs in its focus on current behaviors versus past experiences. Treatment using CBT is categorized in two forms: cognitive therapy and ERP, or exposure-and-response prevention.
With exposure-and-response prevention, a patient who fears germs and compulsively washes their hands may be encouraged to touch a handle in a common space. Instead of the immediate response to wash their hands, they are encouraged to hold out as long as possible, gradually increasing the amount of time between making contact and cleansing their hands as their sessions continue.
This technique assures the mind that the result of participating in a feared behavior is not as drastic as it has been trained to believe. The concept is as the name describes – exposing the patient to their triggers, and adjusting their response in a healthy manner.
For those who may not be receptive to exposure therapy, cognitive therapy is suggested. In this mode of treatment, a therapist will guide their patient in recognizing unhealthy thoughts and emotions, and analyzing their typical response.
For example, if the patient places a call to a loved one and is sent straight to voicemail, their unhealthy response may be that the relative is in danger. As a result, the patient dials repeatedly, despite constantly receiving the voicemail prompt. The therapist would then have their patient list other, less critical reasonings as to why their call may not have been accepted.
The ideology of using CBT for OCD stems from the link between a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Once a therapist has analyzed the patterns of compulsive behaviors in their patients, they’ll be able to decide which form of CBT, and possible medication intervention, would be most effective. Ultimately, choosing cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD has been proven to aid patients in limiting their compulsive behaviors, and enjoying a better quality of life.
Shift Frequency © 2019 – Does CBT Therapy Work for OCD?