Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Nutrition Health Review, Winter 1991 | Go to article overview
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Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


Two effective forms of treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder have evolved during the past two decades. Behavior therapy, often called behavior psychotherapy, and drug treatment, using medications that have specific effects on serotonin neurotransmission, have produced encouraging results.

Although the combination of behavior and drug therapies is most effective, some patients have experienced relief through one or the other.

Behavior therapy has helped patients learn how to diminish anxiety arising from obsessional thoughts and reduce or eliminate compulsive rituals. It is a set of techniques the patient learns to employ whenever beset by a thought known to trigger anxiety and lead to rituals.

In effect, patients resolve to face the things they fear and resist carrying out compulsive rituals. These exposure and response-prevention therapies can be performed gradually or rapidly (like climbing to a feared height or entering the ocean from shallow water).

Many patients are pleasantly surprised to discover that with very little discomfort they can deal with longtime obsessions and compulsions by persevering in behavior therapy. Obsessions begin to fade, and the urge to perform rituals diminishes. The process is neither quick nor simple, but can be effective for many if followed methodically and persistently. When a planned program is pursued, taking on only a few obstacles at a time, moderate success can be expected.

Occasionally, patients become more anxious than usual when beginning behavior therapy. They may encounter moderate success, then suffer a setback. This, say the experts, is the moment when the objective should be pursued even more fervently.

Finding a well-trained and experienced behavior therapist requires diligent searching. The probabilities of falling into the hands of an incompetent or uninformed practitioner are likely. Guidance can be obtained by contacting the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation.

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