Can you cure OCD?

Samir Kadri
Author: Samir Kadri Medical Reviewer: Morgan Blair Last updated:

If you, a friend or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD), you may want to understand how to control the condition and alleviate symptoms.

OCD is a chronic illness characterized by anxiety, distressing thoughts, and compulsive behaviors. It is an illness that sufferers must contend with for the duration of their lives. There is no cure, but many people with OCD can alleviate symptoms through proper treatment.

Can OCD be cured?

Due to its chronic nature, there is no cure for OCD. However, there are treatments you can participate in to manage OCD symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is usually a significant delay between the onset of a person’s OCD symptoms and when they first receive treatment. [1] Many people isolate themselves due to the fear and desolation brought about by their symptoms, seeking to minimize their exposure to any anxiety inducing scenarios. [1]

In addition, they can be self-conscious of the disturbing nature of their thoughts and seek to conceal their symptoms from others due to feelings of shame. [1]

While understandable, isolation and shame become harmful stances to take towards managing your OCD. The sooner you consult a doctor and establish a treatment plan for your OCD symptoms, the better your chances of minimizing the impact of the condition on your life. [1]

Being open and honest about your condition, documenting your symptoms comprehensively, consulting doctors, and interacting with other people or families affected by OCD are all steps you can take towards getting the best treatment plan possible for yourself.

Effective treatments for OCD

The most recommended treatments for OCD are medication and cognitive behavior therapy, with 70% of people with OCD benefitting from the above treatments. These can be combined or carried out individually and are discussed in more detail below.

Medication

Medication is an effective treatment with OCD. Reports show that those who benefit from medication see a symptom reduction of 40-60%. [3]

For medications to work, they must be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you experience side effects, consult your doctor, and address them together. Your doctor can find a different drug or dose that better suits you.

Research shows the most effective medication for OCD are Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These are typically used as antidepressants but are also beneficial in the treatment of OCD symptoms. It is important to note not all antidepressants improve OCD symptoms. The following antidepressants have been found to treat OCD effectively:

Medications affect everyone differently. It can take up to 12 weeks to notice positive results and some people with OCD may require a low dose of medication for the rest of their life. [3]

Risk of relapse is lower if patients use behavioral therapy techniques in combination with medication. Indeed, many psychiatrists and therapists believe a combination of medication and CBT is the optimal form of treatment. [3]

Cognitive behavior therapy for OCD

CBT is most researched treatment approach for combatting OCD. CBT works through combination of two specific techniques: exposure and response prevention (ERP) and cognitive restructuring. [2]

ERP is typically conducted by a licensed mental health professional, such as a therapist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor. [1]

During the initial appointments, the therapist will provide information about OCD, its symptoms and prospective treatment plans. Then, they may work with the patient to understand their specific obsessions, compulsions, and the underlying beliefs and thought patterns that maintain the OCD cycle. This helps identify the individual’s triggers and the nature of their compulsions.

Following this initial assessment, a person undergoes ERP, which involves exposing the individual to situations, thoughts, or images that trigger their obsessions. While exposing the individual to their fears, the therapist will offer supportive measures that allow them to face their fears without seeking comfort in compulsive behaviors. [2] [4]

The cognitive restructuring component focuses on identifying and challenging distorted or irrational thoughts that contribute to OCD symptoms. The therapist helps the individual recognize and reframe their catastrophic thoughts, exaggerated sense of responsibility, and unrealistic beliefs about the importance of their compulsions.

Throughout CBT, therapists provide support and succor to patients, encouraging them to develop helpful strategies to confront their obsessions. People with mild OCD symptoms usually require 8 to 20 sessions; those with more severe OCD may need a longer course of treatment. [4]

Resources
  1. Pittenger, C. (n.d.). Clinical Treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2993523/
  2. International OCD Foundation. (2023a, January 12). International OCD Foundation | How is OCD Treated?https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/ocd-treatment/
  3. International OCD Foundation. (2022, August 15). International OCD Foundation | Medications for OCD. https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/ocd-treatment/meds/
  4. Website, N. (n.d.). Treatment – Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/treatment/
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Samir Kadri
Author Samir Kadri Writer

Samir Kadri serves as our accomplished writer, dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and providing support to those in need.

Published: Jul 27th 2023, Last edited: Feb 21st 2024

Morgan Blair
Medical Reviewer Morgan Blair MA, LPCC

Meet Morgan Blair, our accomplished medical reviewer. Morgan is a licensed therapist with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Northwestern University.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Jul 27th 2023