OCD affects up to 3 in every 100 adults in the United States; approximately half of adult sufferers begin to experience symptoms in childhood. To be diagnosed with OCD, a person must demonstrate both obsessions, categorized as excessive, irrational, and/or inappropriate thoughts, and compulsions, including recurrent, observable behaviors such as hand washing, or “mental compulsions,” such as counting or praying. Common obsessions involve fear of harming one’s children, contamination concerns, nagging doubts about having locked windows or doors, repeated fears of acting in a sexually inappropriate way, fears of being gay if straight, or straight if gay. Common compulsions involve ritualized washing, checking locks or appliances, praying, and reassurance seeking. In adults, obsessions and compulsions related to OCD can be a source of considerable embarrassment, can take up hours of a person’s day, and lead to avoidance of daily tasks and experiences.
Evidence-based treatment plans for OCD involve first a differential diagnosis, followed by an individualized Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) protocol. ERP is an evidence-based form of CBT specifically for OCD, that has been shown to decrease over-activity in the affected area of the brain, and allow clients to effectively re-engage with their lives. For some clients, a referral to a qualified provider for a medication evaluation may also be indicated.