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how can i stop ocd thoughts

Exposure and response prevention for OCD

Exposure and response prevention involves repeated exposure to the source of your obsession. Then you are asked to refrain from the compulsive behavior you’d usually perform to reduce your anxiety.

For example, if you are a compulsive hand washer, you might be asked to touch the door handle in a public restroom and then be prevented from washing up. As you sit with the anxiety, the urge to wash your hands will gradually begin to go away on its own. In this way, you learn that you don’t need the ritual to get rid of your anxiety—that you have some control over your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Studies show that exposure and response prevention can actually “retrain” the brain, permanently reducing the occurrence of OCD symptoms.

Cognitive therapy for OCD

The cognitive therapy component for obsessive-compulsive disorder focuses on the catastrophic thoughts and exaggerated sense of responsibility you feel. A big part of cognitive therapy for OCD is teaching you healthy and effective ways of responding to obsessive thoughts, without resorting to compulsive behavior.

Other OCD treatments

In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy, the following treatments are also used for OCD:

Medication – Antidepressants are sometimes used in conjunction with therapy for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, medication alone is rarely effective in relieving the symptoms of OCD.
Family Therapy – Because OCD often causes problems in family life and social adjustment, family therapy is often advised. Family therapy promotes understanding of the disorder and can help reduce family conflicts. It can also motivate family members and teach them how to help their loved one.
Group Therapy – Group therapy is another helpful obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment. Through interaction with fellow OCD sufferers, group therapy provides support and encouragement and decreases feelings of isolation.

Avoid making personal criticisms. Remember, your loved one’s OCD behaviors are symptoms, not character flaws.

Don’t scold someone with OCD or tell them to stop performing rituals. They can’t comply, and the pressure to stop will only make the behaviors worse.

Be as kind and patient as possible. Each sufferer needs to overcome problems at their own pace. Praise any successful attempt to resist OCD, and focus attention on positive elements in the person’s life.

Do not play along with your loved one’s OCD rituals. Helping with rituals will only reinforce the behavior. Support the person, not their rituals.

Keep communication positive and clear. Communication is important so you can find a balance between supporting your loved one and standing up to the OCD and not further distressing your loved one.