What Are the Benefits of Psychotherapy for OCD?

Angela Farrer
Angela Farrer
Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.
Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.

Benefits of psychotherapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) include a better understanding of what triggers certain behaviors, improved self-acceptance, and the development of more constructive methods for coping with fears or emotional traumas. People who undergo psychotherapy for OCD frequently do so because they have recurring and intrusive behavior rituals that are prevalent enough to have negative effects on their daily lives as well as their personal relationships. Many of the aims of psychotherapy for this problem lead sufferers to realizations that their imagined disastrous events will not happen if they stop performing their rituals.

Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.
Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.

OCD is generally classified as an anxiety disorder tied to sufferers' strong wishes to gain control over parts of their daily environments. Many feel that something terrible will happen to them or their loved ones if they do not perform specific rituals in a precise way. Common OCD ritual behaviors include tapping, counting, and checking certain objects multiple times. The precise cause of this disorder is unknown, though mental health researchers often tie it to a combination of brain chemistry imbalances and certain environmental influences such as early childhood trauma. Psychotherapy for OCD can often teach patients to recognize their ritual-inducing anxiety before it becomes overwhelming and to counter it with more positive relaxation techniques.

Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.
Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.

One type of psychotherapy for OCD focuses on gaining insight to the root causes of obsessive and anxiety-producing thoughts. Many therapists find this approach helpful in the beginning for learning the exact behavior patterns of different OCD sufferers. Another beneficial focus of psychotherapy for OCD is on relaxation methods for diffusing the disorder's overwhelming anxiety. Using certain mental imagery, breathing exercises, and self-talk can often help OCD patients relax when they begin to feel the urges to perform rituals. These techniques usually reduce the average numbers of times they feel the need for their rituals throughout each day.

People with disruptive OCD may undergo psychotherapy.
People with disruptive OCD may undergo psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy for OCD can help sufferers develop both more relaxed mental attitudes and more positive views of themselves. OCD is a disorder that can often produce low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority compared to other people. Although some psychotherapy methods can be purposefully anxiety-producing, patients who are able to stick with their new coping and relaxation skills are able to gain control over the negative fears that led them to perform obsessive daily rituals. This aspect of continued psychotherapy is particularly beneficial because it can eventually teach sufferers that they are capable people who are in control of their OCD instead of the other way around.

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    • Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.
      Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.
    • Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.
      Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.
    • Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.
      Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.
    • People with disruptive OCD may undergo psychotherapy.
      People with disruptive OCD may undergo psychotherapy.
    • There are many different treatment options for overcoming obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
      There are many different treatment options for overcoming obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).