A young woman is in virtual CBT for OCD.

CBT Could Help You Manage OCD

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches people how to challenge and regulate irrational thoughts and behaviors—skills especially helpful for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).


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How CBT treats OCD

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treats obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) by helping people identify and challenge their irrational thoughts and compulsive behaviors. This type of therapy teaches people to recognize the triggers for their OCD symptoms and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Through a combination of cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy, clients are able to gradually confront and overcome their fears and anxieties. By working with a CBT therapist to change their obsessive thought patterns and behaviors, people with OCD can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. 

Skills taught in CBT for OCD

Skills taught in CBT for OCD are as follows:

1. Exposure skills

This skill involves intentionally confronting feared stimuli or situations in order to reduce anxiety. People with OCD are taught to gradually face their fears without giving in to the compulsions that usually alleviate their distress. Over time, this helps them learn that their anxiety will decrease on its own without needing to rely on compulsive behaviors.

2. Cognitive restructuring

This skill focuses on identifying and challenging irrational thoughts related to OCD. By examining the evidence for and against their fears, people can learn to replace catastrophic beliefs with more realistic and balanced ones. This CBT skill helps to reduce the power that obsessions have over their thinking patterns.

3. Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques are used in CBT to help people with OCD stay present in the moment and observe their thoughts and feelings without judgment. By developing this nonjudgmental awareness, people can learn to tune into their experiences without becoming overwhelmed by them.

4. Relapse prevention

This skill involves developing a plan for how to maintain progress and cope with setbacks. By identifying triggers and developing strategies to manage them, people can learn to prevent relapses and continue to make progress even after completing CBT for OCD.

5. Social skills training

This CBT skill helps people with OCD to improve their communication and interpersonal skills, as well as to build a support network. By learning how to effectively communicate their needs to others and build strong connections, people can increase their resilience and reduce the impact of OCD on their relationships.

Benefits of CBT for OCD

People who receive CBT for OCD can experience long-term benefits such as reduced symptoms, improved coping mechanisms, and increased insight into their own thought patterns and behaviors. CBT helps people learn to challenge and change their obsessive thought patterns and compulsive behaviors, leading to lasting improvements in their overall quality of life.

How quickly does CBT work for OCD? 

Studies have shown that CBT can be effective in reducing symptoms of OCD in most people. However, the speed of improvement can vary depending on the severity of the person’s symptoms and their readiness to engage in the therapy process. Overall, CBT has been found to be a relatively quick and effective option for addressing OCD symptoms in people seeking treatment.

How is medication used to treat OCD? 

Medication can be used to treat OCD by targeting the brain chemistry and reducing the symptoms of the disorder. Commonly prescribed medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Tricyclic antidepressants or antipsychotic medications may be prescribed in some cases to help manage OCD symptoms. These medications can be used in combination with therapy to provide comprehensive treatment for a person with OCD.

Other types of OCD therapy

In addition to CBT and medication management, some other types of OCD therapy are as follows: 

Exposure and response prevention (ERP)

ERP therapy involves gradually exposing a person to a fear or obsession while discouraging the use of compulsive behavior to reduce anxiety. ERP therapy aims to help people with OCD confront their anxieties and learn to cope with them without resorting to compulsive behavior.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

ACT focuses on acceptance of intrusive thoughts and managing the distress they cause through mindfulness and value-based behaviors. This therapy encourages people with OCD to develop a more flexible mindset and a willingness to experience discomfort without seeking immediate relief.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

DBT combines cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness techniques to help people regulate their emotions and improve interpersonal relationships. This therapy emphasizes increasing one’s ability to tolerate distress and effectively managing urges to engage in compulsive behaviors, skills that benefit those with OCD.

Intensive outpatient program for OCD

An intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) is used to treat people with OCD when their symptoms are moderate to severe and require more intensive treatment than traditional outpatient therapy. IOP offers a comprehensive and structured treatment program that includes therapy sessions multiple times per week, group therapy, and medication management. This approach allows people to receive more support and guidance as they work on managing their symptoms and implementing new coping strategies. IOP also provides a higher level of accountability and structure, which can be crucial for people with OCD who may struggle with maintaining consistency in their treatment.

OCD treatment with Charlie Health 

If you or a loved one are struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health’s virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for dealing with serious mental health conditions, including OCD. Our expert clinicians incorporate evidence-based therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With treatment, managing OCD is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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