From the outside looking in, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) would seem to be mainstream. There are regular references to the condition in the media, and most of us have heard the phrase, “I’m so OCD” muttered once or twice. The problem, however, is that none of these representations are an accurate reflection of what it is truly like to live with OCD.
Culturally, it has become commonplace to lightheartedly refer to someone who is particularly organized, neat, or meticulous as “OCD.” Yet, reality for OCD is rarely lighthearted. Rather, it is punctuated by intrusive, irrational thoughts and excessive behaviors over which the sufferer has little to no control. It is troublesome, consuming and warrants expert care. While a friend who claims to be so “OCD” may simply need to clean their kitchen before being able to go to bed, real OCD requires far more time and energy, as well as the help of medical professionals. For those patients who legitimately suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the following treatment methods are where real help lies.
Prescription Medication for OCD
When it comes to controlling OCD symptoms, a first line of defense is often prescription medication, in particular those belonging to a class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). More commonly known as antidepressants, SSRIs work by balancing the amount of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain. And, while studies have shown some of these medications to be capable of reducing OCD symptoms by as much as 40-60%, there are a few factors that should be taken into consideration in order to ensure maximum benefit:
- See a psychiatrist for diagnosis and management of OCD – While any physician can prescribe SSRIs, it is important to see a specialist who is intimately familiar with the condition and its management through both experience and medical training.
- Take OCD medications as directed – It may take some work between patient and physician to find the best medication at the most appropriate dosage. However, finding that perfect fit and having it continue to work hinges on following prescription instructions. In the event that patients should need to discontinue or change their medication, the supervision and guidance of a psychiatrist is always recommended.
Exposure and Response Prevention for OCD
For some OCD patients, the best results may obtained by combining their medications with other therapies. In such cases, the treating psychiatrist can make a recommendation for a therapist or psychologist who is skilled in a particular form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Through guided therapy, ERP exposes patients to the triggers of their obsessive thoughts or compulsions and helps reduce the reaction to these triggers over time by teaching patients how to prevent their typical response. While many OCD sufferers have previously tried (and failed) to confront their thoughts, anxieties, and fears head-on, it is the guidance of a skilled professional and the specific ERP techniques that finally help many exercise control over their OCD responses.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not a punchline or a quirk. It is a very real and often debilitating mental illness. Those suffering from OCD are unable to escape their thoughts or compulsions by simply tidying up before bed or keeping their desk in order. Instead, it requires an individualized treatment plan put in place and monitored by a mental health professional.
If you or someone you love is suffering from symptoms of OCD, contact Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge and request an appointment with one of our board-certified psychiatrists. We will not only help you confirm a diagnosis, but we will also help you put into place all the pieces necessary for a happy and healthy day-to-day life.