03 Feb, 24

OCD Behavioral Therapy: How it Works and Who it Helps


The changes we underwent as a civilization in the past few decades are more drastic and dramatic than anyone has ever seen. There has been a sudden sprout of technological growth and changes in lifestyle, which led us to the current scenario we live in. Luckily for us, mental health is no longer a taboo. Villains like OCD can now be brought under the microscope and cured for good.

What Exactly Is OCD and How Does It Work?

OCD is a psychiatric condition characterized by repeated unwanted disturbing thoughts (obsessions) followed by recurrent behaviours or actions (compulsions) to calm down from the tension they bring. Neurologically, OCD is associated with abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, and thalamus (CSTC circuit). Researchers believe circuit issues may cause and maintain OCD.

OCD is characterized by worrying thoughts, images, or impulses called obsessions. These obsessions often lead to compulsions, which are repeated mental or physical actions to relieve the discomfort. Compulsions have little to do with the incident they're seeking to stop and simply provide temporary relief, perpetuating obsessions and compulsions. It goes on as a cycle of obsessions and compulsions that individuals experience, and it operates on both cognitive and behavioral levels.

  • OCD patients have persistent, unwanted, and upsetting thoughts, images, or desires. Irrational or scary ideas are hard to control.
  • Obsessions cause severe worry and misery, creating a sense of urgency to alleviate the distress.
  • Compulsions are recurrent activities or mental acts intended to relieve obsession-related distress or avert feared events. This might involve rituals, counting, or checking.
  • Compulsions relieve obsession-related tension. Relief is brief, and obsessions return, repeating the cycle.
  • Compulsive actions reinforce the idea that they are essential to avert damage or relieve worry. Negative reinforcement reinforces obsessions and compulsions.

OCD and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is marked by distressing obsessions (thoughts, images, or feelings that won't go away) and compulsions (repetitive actions or mental acts done to calm down). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the best ways to treat OCD because it is based on a theory that looks at both the cognitive and behavioral parts of the illness. CBT for OCD changes detrimental thoughts associated with obsessions. Identifying and resolving cognitive mistakes is crucial. Negative thinking causes OCD sufferers to exaggerate the likelihood and severity of their fears. Therapists use cognitive restructuring to help clients challenge and replace distorted views with more balanced and correct ones. It makes powerful content appear less hazardous and vital.

Effective Treatments For OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has been a part of our society for quite some time now. Because of this, researchers have been able to spend time with it and come up with effective treatments for the same.

Exposure & Response Prevention Therapy (ERP)

ERP is a first-line behavioral therapy for OCD that is based on the ideas of classical training and elimination learning. It includes introducing people to things that make them anxious (exposure) while stopping them from engaging in compulsive behaviors afterward (response prevention). The goal of this process is to lessen the link between cravings and anxiety, which will help with symptom reduction. ERP uses the CSTC circuit, specifically the orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and basal ganglia. Studies using functional imaging show that brain activity changes during ERP, which suggests that this circuit is neuroplastic and can be reorganized.

Habituation Training

Habituation training for OCD involves a therapeutic approach where individuals are gradually exposed to anxiety-inducing stimuli related to their obsessive thoughts. The goal of habituation is to help individuals become accustomed to these stimuli over time, resulting in a reduction of the emotional and physiological response associated with the obsessions

Habit Reversal Training

Habit Reversal Training is beneficial in treating OCD by fostering awareness of specific compulsions, and practicing alternative responses that are incompatible with their compulsive actions. By consistently engaging in these competing behaviors, individuals disrupt the reinforcement cycle associated with compulsions, breaking the automatic link between obsessive thoughts and habitual responses. Habit Reversal Training is often used to help people with conditions like trichotillomania and excoriation disorder.

Imaginal Exposure

Imaginal exposure is a form of traditional exposure treatment that includes repeatedly imagining terrifying circumstances. This therapy helps OCD sufferers face their concerns in a secure therapeutic context by addressing undesirable thoughts and images. It helps to reduce the emotional impact of fearful ideas.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring proves beneficial in managing obsessive- compulsive disorder by targeting the distressing thought patterns that fuel compulsive behaviors. In this therapeutic approach, individuals learn to identify and challenge irrational thoughts associated with obsessions, working towards developing alternative, more balanced perspectives. By examining evidence, testing the reality of perceived threats, and gradually exposing themselves to anxiety-provoking situations, individuals can confront their fears and reduce the need for compulsive rituals.

Who Does OCD Behavioral Therapy Help?

Cognitive-behavioral treatment for OCD is designed to assist individuals dealing with the persistent and chronic nature of obsessive- compulsive disorder, characterized by intrusive obsessions and repetitive compulsions. This therapeutic approach incorporates various techniques such as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), imaginal exposure, Habit Reversal Training, Cognitive restructuring and Habituation Training to help individuals effectively manage and alleviate the challenges posed by their OCD symptoms. The scientific theory behind ERP is that exposure to anxiety-inducing stimuli and the suppression of compulsive actions lead to habituation and reduced anxiety over time.

Learning theory underpins ERP's scientific foundation. Extinction learning guides therapy, but classical conditioning creates obsession- anxiety correlations. ERP exposes people to their frightened stimuli without letting them execute ritualistic activities to weaken these connections. Extinction reduces symptom intensity by decreasing the conditioned fear response.

How Effective Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD?

The scientific basis of CBT for OCD lies in its application of cognitive and behavioral principles. Cognitively, the therapy confronts and restructures erroneous ideas and warped cognitive processes to make obsessions seem less harmful. The rigorous and scientifically established exposure and response prevention (ERP) approach subjects people to items that make them uneasy and stop them from completing repetitive patterns. Changes in thinking and behavior suit the cognitive-behavioral paradigm and work for many OCD symptoms.

Many RCTs and meta-analyses suggest that cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) helps OCD sufferers. These studies consistently indicate that CBT reduces symptoms and improves functioning compared to control groups. CBT is scientifically shown to cure OCD better than medication alone and other psychological approaches. Studies have demonstrated that CBT, especially ERP, provides longer-lasting and stronger therapeutic effects. This suggests that addressing OCD's cognitive and behavioral aspects yields the best outcomes.

And That’s A Wrap!

OCD is a condition that needs attention, which is a fact. If you feel like some of the symptoms of OCD resonate with you or someone you care about, it is high time you do something about it. Zivanzia is a safe space for you to talk about your feelings; our expert psychologists will help you come out through the other side successfully.


Contact us

Recent Posts

Recent Posts

Speak to our Expert

+971 52 167 7884

Consult our Doctors

Book Appointment