If you are a resident of Washington, D.C. or Maryland, call or text me at 202-701-3646 or use this contact form to schedule your first or for a free, brief consultation.
What is OCD?
OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It is a mental health condition that includes frequent, unwanted thoughts, images, or urges (known as obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (known as compulsions) that individuals feel compelled to perform.
Obsessions are intrusive thoughts or urges that typically cause a sense of fear and distress. Examples of common obsessions include fears of contamination, doubts about safety, distressing intrusive thoughts about hurting others or fears of having broken rules (religious, legal, social etc.).
Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that individuals engage in to try to reduce the anxiety or distress caused by their obsessions. These behaviors are often not realistically connected to the feared event or situation and may provide only temporary relief. Common compulsions include excessive cleaning or hand washing, checking behaviors (such as repeatedly checking locks or appliances), and arranging or organizing things in a particular way. They can also include excessive repetition of religious acts such as praying the rosary or going to confession multiple times a day.
What is therapy for OCD and how is it different from traditional “talk therapy”?
The first-line therapy for OCD is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Individuals work closely with a therapist especially trained in ERP. It involves gradually and gently exposing individuals to situations, thoughts, or images that trigger their obsessions and then helping them resist engaging in the corresponding compulsive behaviors or mental rituals. This process allows individuals to learn that their anxiety naturally decreases over time without resorting to their usual rituals or avoidance behaviors. Over repeated exposures, the anxiety response weakens, and individuals develop more adaptive and less distressing responses to their obsessions.
ERP is different from traditional "talk therapy" because it focuses specifically on addressing the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that characterize OCD. While traditional talk therapy may involve discussing and exploring various aspects of a person's life, including their thoughts and emotions, ERP is highly structured and goal-oriented. It aims to help individuals directly confront and manage their OCD symptoms through exposure exercises and learning new coping strategies.
Doesn’t every therapist know how to treat OCD?
While talk therapy approaches, such as psychodynamic therapy or supportive therapy, can be valuable for addressing other mental health concerns, it can actually perpetuate some OCD symptoms, rather than extinguish them. ERP is specifically designed to target the unique symptoms and challenges of OCD. It is crucial to work with a therapist who has training and experience in treating OCD to ensure that the most effective techniques, like ERP, are employed. If a person with OCD solely engages in talk therapy without receiving appropriate OCD-specific treatment, it is possible that their symptoms may persist or worsen over time. It is crucial to work with a qualified mental health professional who has training in treating OCD to ensure that the most effective strategies are employed and the individual receives the appropriate care for their specific needs.
What about medication?
Everyone is unique and many people benefit from psychotherapy alone. Others may benefit from a combination of psychotherapy and medication, or prefer to only treat their OCD with medication. I respect everyone’s ability to make choices that are right for them. I can provide psychoeducational information about common psychotropic medications but would never pressure or force someone to start taking medication. I have experience as a therapist within a primary care medical clinic where I learned to help my clients determine if medication may be a treatment option they would like to explore more with their primary care physician or psychiatrist. I am not licensed to prescribe medication but can refer you to a psychiatrist or primary care physician who is. I am happy to coordinate with them and can administer well regarded questionnaires that can be an effective way to give a snapshot of your symptoms to your prescriber. These questionnaires can also be used to communicate the progress that you are making so that your provider can make the most informed decisions about your medication dosage moving forward.
Does my OCD mean I’m crazy?
No, having OCD does not mean you are crazy. OCD is a mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is important to understand that having OCD does not indicate insanity or being "crazy." OCD is characterized by unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) that individuals feel compelled to perform. These thoughts and behaviors can be distressing and interfere with daily life, but they do not reflect a loss of touch with reality or a break from rational thinking.
OCD is recognized as a mental health disorder in diagnostic manuals such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It is a legitimate medical condition that arises from a combination of genetic, neurobiological, and environmental factors. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a reflection of one's character.
A helpful analogy for understanding certain aspects of OCD is to compare it to a sensitive smoke alarm. All of our brains have a part that looks out for danger, and potential mistakes. Sometimes, the brains of people with OCD are more likely to be alert to some particular dangers or problems. OCD can be likened to a sensitive smoke alarm that is easily triggered. Just as a sensitive smoke alarm may detect minor smoke or heat, individuals with OCD may have heightened sensitivity to certain thoughts or situations. They perceive them as dangerous or threatening, even when there is no real danger present. These triggers prompt anxiety and lead to recurring, distressing thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) aimed at reducing the anxiety. However, OCD is a complex condition that involves more than just sensitivity, and it requires appropriate treatment and support.
You’re not the only one.
You are not alone in having OCD. OCD is a relatively common mental health condition that affects people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. OCD affects millions of people around the world.
Many individuals with OCD may feel isolated or believe that they are the only ones going through these experiences. It is estimated that around 2-3% of the global population will experience OCD at some point in their lives. Many people are living with OCD and have successfully managed their symptoms with treatment and support.
Maybe you feel that you don’t have time for therapy.
I work hard to accommodate scheduling challenges. I work with clients to find an appointment time that best fits them and offer daytime and evening appointments. I also offer online therapy. With online therapy, there is no need to fight with traffic, hunt for parking or waste time in a waiting room. If time is still a consideration, I encourage you to take stock of the quality of your time and how therapy can improve it as you move forward.
What about online therapy?
I provide online therapy options, also known as telemental health. It is normal to feel that going to therapy appointments are inconvenient or take too much time. Telemental health has been shown to be just as effective as traditional office-based therapy (read further down the page for links to research about this topic). Telemental health allows clients to receive the support they need from the comfort of their home or the privacy of their own office. Many clients find it inconvenient and time-consuming to commute back and forth from their sessions but with telehealth sessions, they are able to fit a telemental health session into their lunch hour, others like that they can get therapy regardless of their busy schedule or illness. Therapy sessions are conducted via a secure telehealth service and the sessions are never recorded.
Online therapy is private and secure.
Therapy sessions are conducted via a secure, HIPAA compliant platform and the sessions are never recorded. Unlike most therapy offices, there is the added privacy of not having to be seen entering a therapist's office or waiting in their waiting room. With online therapy, you can avoid bumping into others when you’re feeling your most vulnerable.
Online therapy is effective.
Online therapy has been shown to be just as effective as traditional office-based therapy. For more research on this topic check out some of these studies:
Take control of your OCD.
Remember that seeking help for OCD, whether through therapy and/or medication, is a positive step towards managing and overcoming the symptoms. With proper treatment and support, many individuals with OCD can lead fulfilling and productive lives.
Consider reaching out to a mental health professional who specializes in treating OCD. They can provide a proper diagnosis, develop a personalized treatment plan, and guide you through evidence-based therapies like Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Whether you are ready to take this step or not, be kind and patient with yourself; remember that managing OCD takes time and effort, and setbacks may occur. Treat yourself with understanding and compassion.
I offer a warm, supportive and safe environment which often includes humor and laughter as well. I love what I do and take great joy in seeing my clients gain insights into their habits, incorporate helpful skills into their lives and gain control over their OCD symptoms. My long-term goal is for you to gain more confidence in your mental health, become an expert in what helps you manage your OCD and, in a sense, become your own therapist. If you are a resident of Washington, D.C. or Maryland, call or text me at 202-701-3646 or use this contact form to schedule your first appointment or for a free, brief consultation. Whether you are ready to get started or just curious, contact me to learn more about how I can help and find out if we may be a good fit.