You Are Not Your Thoughts
Our OCD expert will show you how to cope with obsessive thoughts & compulsions. Don't spend another minute feeling hijacked by your mind. Schedule a callback or give us a call today.
You Are Not Your Thoughts
You Are Not Your Thoughts
You Are Not Your Thoughts
OCD Therapy in Fort Lauderdale, FL
OCD treatment can help you live the life you want to live.
When you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it can feel like your mind and body have been seized by your distressing thoughts and uncomfortable emotions. It can be difficult to attend to what’s important in life, leaving you feeling exhausted, empty, and not like yourself.
The more you try to control your thoughts and feelings, the worse it gets. OCD treatment can help you take back your life and help you choose to live by your values rather than living to avoid discomfort.
Many people seek mental health therapy to manage their OCD. Perhaps you've even attempted therapy before but didn't see the results you wanted. That might be a sign that you're not receiving the right kind of therapy.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that was specifically developed to treat OCD and OCD-related illnesses. If you want to see results, it is critical that you are receiving the appropriate form of therapy.
Battling OCD requires exceptional attention, care, and effort from an experienced mental health specialist. Hope is never lost, and you are not alone in this fight. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the only way out is through. We are here to guide you through your OCD treatment journey to a better life.
OCD affects approximately 1 in every 100 adults, or between 2 and 3 million adults in the United States, according to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF). Men, women, and children of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds suffer from OCD.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), OCD is one of the top 20 most debilitating conditions worldwide. It can manifest at any age, but it most commonly develops between the ages of 8 and 12, as well as between late adolescence and early adulthood.
OCD is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, meaning it often flies under the radar and is left untreated or incorrectly treated.
OCD Signs and Symptoms
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that appear in your mind repeatedly and against your control. They may be really frightening, graphic, and disturbing and make you feel anxious, disgusted, or uncomfortable.
Someone with OCD might feel they can't share these internal experiences with others or they might feel alarmed they are capable of having such thoughts. People with OCD can’t control these thoughts. Most people with OCD realize that these thoughts are illogical or irrational.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that are performed to alleviate the distress caused by obsessive thoughts. Compulsions can be physical (observable) or mental (not observable).
Someone suffering from OCD often repeats the compulsion until the anxiety or discomfort goes away and things feel right again. However, the relief is short lived and the cycle starts again. Someone with OCD may even understand that it isn’t logical to carry out a compulsion but it can still feel too frightening not to. Compulsions are often time-consuming, interfere with daily life, and the comfort they give is fleeting.
If you experience OCD, your obsessions and compulsions will likely impact how you live your life, or at least cause significant distress. Obsessive thoughts can make it hard to concentrate, be in the present, and leave you feeling exhausted. You may struggle doing things you enjoy, going to work, spending time with family and friends, eating out, or even going outside.
It is important to keep in mind that everyone experiences invasive and bizarre thoughts, like “what if I just ran my car off the road?” or “what if I stab myself with my fork?” These are a normal and natural part of life, and most people are able to quickly disregard them, maybe even laugh them off and move on with their day. Yet, these odd thoughts get “stuck” in the brains of individuals with OCD.
A great way to think of this concept is that these thoughts are like the brain’s junk mail. Most people have a spam filter that helps them to avoid incoming sales ads, credit offers, and phishing scams.
But, having OCD is like having a broken spam filter. The junk mail simply keeps popping up and won’t stop. It becomes difficult to tell what messages and warnings are legit and which ones should be disregarded. Eventually, the amount of junk mail overtakes the inbox and exceeds the important mail which gets lost in the shuffle. The person with OCD becomes overwhelmed and it overloads their server (AKA their mind and brain).
The Doubting Disease
OCD is often referred to as the doubting disease.
Those with OCD doubt everything, no matter how much reassurance they are given. OCD can make someone doubt even the most fundamental aspects about themselves, others, or the world they live in.
They can’t tolerate uncertainty and are constantly looking for absolute confirmation that what they fear is not going to come true or that they won’t feel a certain way forever.
What causes OCD?
OCD is a neurobiological condition that can be found in the brain. It is thought to be caused by a neural miscommunication between the frontal lobe and smaller subcortical areas such as the orbital cortex, cingulate gyrus, and caudate nucleus.
These brain areas communicate with one another via serotonin, a neurotransmitter. While having low serotonin levels is not exclusive to OCD, it has been found that those who have the diagnosis often have a serotonin deficiency, which is why SSRIs are the preferred medication prescribed to those with OCD.
Despite the fact that OCD has a neurological component, research has been unable to pinpoint a single cause or causes of OCD. No two people with the disorder are completely alike. It is believed that OCD likely is the result of a combination of neurobiological, genetic, behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors that trigger the disorder.
According to research, OCD can also be inherited, and family history and genetics are likely to have a part in the disorder's development. Genes are often only part of the equation though. Other variables might be involved, like trauma or even ordinary life stresses that may activate the genes associated with the symptoms of OCD.
One thing's for certain. Those who have OCD did not ask for the disorder and have no control over whether or not they develop it, just like those who have cancer or pneumonia.
Subtypes of OCD:
Intrusive thoughts center around certain themes. The first that comes to mind for the majority of people is the fear of getting contaminated by germs, paired with excessive hand washing. However, there are actually many subtypes of OCD.
The most common themes relate to contamination, harm (to self or others), pedophilia, scrupulosity (concern with morality), perfectionism, and “just right” OCD.
Though there are varying themes of OCD, the cycle of obsessions and compulsions are the same, which means the same treatment can be used no matter the subtype. Many patients often present with multiple subtypes of OCD and/or their subtypes transform over time.
- Fear of becoming contaminated or dirty from contact with corrupted objects or people.
- Fear of being emotionally contaminated from contact with something dirty, wrong, or evil.
- Fear of harming yourself or others.
- Fear of acting on a violent impulse.
- Unwanted thoughts, images, or urges related to sex.
- Fear of making a mistake or failing.
- Fear of becoming a pedophile.
- Need to feel “just right.”
- Excessive concern with morality, or right and wrong behavior.
- Fear of going to hell or being punished by a religious deity.
- Fear of being a bad person.
- Excessive concern with your sexual orientation.
- Need for symmetry or perfection.
- Need to tell, narrate, or confess to others.
- Need to remember every detail, fact, date, etc.
- Excessive focus on somatic experiences (such as blinking, swallowing, breathing, etc.)
- Avoidance of triggering people, objects, images, numbers, colors, etc.
- Seeking reassurance from self or others.
- Arranging objects in a very specific way.
- Rereading, erasing, redoing, or rewriting.
- Excessive hygiene rituals such as bathing, cleaning, or washing your hands.
- Repeatedly checking things, such as locks, switches, and doors.
- Physically or mentally checking you haven’t harmed someone.
- Tapping or rubbing an object a certain amount of times or until it feels right.
- Repeating routine movements like standing up/sitting down, walking in and out of a door, etc.
- Repeatedly saying certain words, phrases, or prayers while doing unrelated tasks.
“While OCD Treatment is challenging, living with untreated OCD is even more so.”
OCD Treatment - Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is an evidence-based practice and considered the "gold standard" of mental health treatment for OCD and related disorders. And, when combined with medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), it has been found to be the most effective therapy.
Current research has indicated that approximately 2 out of 3 of patients who receive ERP experience improvement in symptoms, and approximately 1 out of 3 patients are considered to be recovered after completing the treatment (Hezel & Simpson, 2019). (Source)
ERP assists people in managing their behavior in response to obsessive thoughts, uncomfortable emotions, and unwanted somatic sensations. The ultimate goal of ERP is to help people break free from the cycle of obsessions and compulsions so they may live better lives. Over time, one learns that they can choose to respond differently in the face of fear and anxiety.
ERP is an advanced behavioral therapy with two components:
- The first component is exposure, which is gradually exposing patients to anxiety-provoking situations and obsessions.
- The second component is response prevention, which is an intervention that helps patients resist and ultimately eliminate compulsions in reaction to their discomfort.
ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and specific training in ERP.
When ERP treatment is attempted by a mental health professional with little to no specialized training, the results can be ineffective or unintentionally make the symptoms worse in the long run.
If you have questions or think that you may need ERP therapy for your OCD or anxiety, schedule a 15-minute phone consultation. It’s absolutely free.
What to expect from OCD therapy
ERP may sound difficult and frightening. Just getting started takes a lot of drive because you are actively choosing to encounter thoughts and circumstances that you fear and deliberately resist or avoid. But you aren’t alone, you will have an experienced OCD therapist to guide you along the way.
Over the course of treatment, you can expect to learn more about OCD and ERP, as well as speak to your therapist about your specific fears and compulsions. Knowledge is power and will help in the fight against OCD. You and your OCD therapist will also identify your goals, values, and what you would like to get out of treatment. You will collaborate with your therapist to develop an exposure list and fear hierarchy, which is a list of exercises arranged in order of difficulty that target a certain OCD-related fear. Once that list has been created, your therapist will guide you through your first exposure where your goal will be to sit with your distress without trying to avoid or reduce it.
You might be asking what else you should be aware of about the OCD treatment process. Below are different things you can expect from OCD treatment.
- It will be challenging. ERP is designed to be tough because it develops a skill called distress tolerance. We will need to generate discomfort so that you may eventually learn how to deal with it without resorting to compulsions. This will also teach you that you can tolerate challenging things, thus increasing your confidence. It is critical to remember that you and your therapist are a team. Nobody will ever be forced into an exposure. Everything moves slowly and at the pace of the patient.
- It gets worse before it gets better. Oftentimes, you may feel worse before you make significant progress. The treatment is meant to take away your safety behaviors (e.g., compulsions) that have been holding strong feelings at bay. Once those safety behaviors are taken away, what you are left with are those uncomfortable feelings you have been trying to avoid. Once you begin to build your strength towards those distressing feelings, it may feel like you are regressing. This is a totally normal part of the treatment progress and does not last forever.
- You will have to put in the work to see results. There is a misconception that therapy is “all talk and no action." However, with ERP, it is the opposite. For example, if you workout for one hour once a week, you likely will see little improvement in your strength and endurance. But, if you exercise for one hour daily 3 times a week consistently for a long period of time, you are going to see progress. No one builds strength by doing nothing. The same idea applies to OCD therapy. You must consistently practice what you are working on in treatment sessions, as well as several times outside of therapy sessions. Otherwise, you won't see the desired improvement.
- While ERP is difficult, living with untreated OCD is even more difficult. You can choose to continue to be ruled by your thoughts and emotions. Or you can face them and take back your life. ERP will assist you in realizing that you can choose how to respond and that you don't have to engage in compulsions to live a great life. You will be back in control, not OCD.
Frequently asked questions about OCD treatment
- What is the difference between ERP and CBT?
ERP is a type of CBT. Although the name cognitive behavioral therapy would seem to be a single type of treatment, it is actually an umbrella term that encompasses an array of different cognitive and behavioral therapies.
Many types of CBT focus on modifying the relationship between emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, while ERP focuses entirely on modifying behaviors.
- Could I just take medication?
Medication is beneficial and can give much-needed symptom relief, but it cannot solve everything.The majority of progress will be made during therapy sessions and acquiring skills to manage the condition.
Consider this: someone who has broken their foot may use crutches to move about. Crutches do not cure the injury, but they do make mobility easier. Medication, in essence, can act as crutches and be a beneficial aid in the therapy process.
- What do I have to do in sessions?
Each session is tailored to the individual because each person has unique concerns, presentations, and goals for treatment. A broad summary of what is done in therapy includes setting goals, identifying values, learning about your condition, and participating in some form of intervention (like ERP) in which you develop and practice skills to help you get closer to living the life you desire.
- How long will treatment take?
Everyone's circumstance is different, and the time it takes for treatment to help you reach your objectives and make progress will vary from one person to another. Simply put, a precise estimate is difficult to provide, but therapy progress is regularly monitored and discussed throughout treatment.
- What does an ERP therapy session look like?
Hand washing is a compulsion that is frequently addressed using ERP. After coming into contact with a "contaminated" surface, someone suffering from OCD may wash their hands until they're raw. During an ERP session, they may begin by touching a contaminated surface with one finger and without washing their hands immediately.
The difficulty of the exposure steadily rises with time and they increase their contact with the surface or even further delay the hand washing. As part of response prevention, the patient learns to gently wash their hands just when required, rather than obsessively scrubbing. Exposures are always voluntary and no one is ever forced to engage in an exposure.
- Does exposure therapy work for other types of conditions?
Yes, ERP is just one type of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy has been shown to be effective for social anxiety, specific phobias, trauma, generalized anxiety, health anxiety, and panic disorder.
How to get started:
- The first step is to either schedule a callback or give The Psychology Group a call: (954) 488-2933
- Our practice offers complimentary 15-minute phone consultations. During this consultation we will learn more about your needs and goals. You'll be matched with one of our expert therapists
- Next, you'll meet with your therapist for an initial session. There, your OCD specialist will get a very thorough understanding of your unique background, history and what you'd like to accomplish. They’ll explain the treatment plan and collaboratively, you'll both decide next steps
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