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Online Therapy for OCD

Phi Atratus
  • Dec 15, 2021
  • 5 min read
Distressed woman sitting on a staircase thinking deeply

When talking about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), too many people picture a neurotic person who pays an unnecessary amount of attention to details or who gets upset when things aren’t nice, tidy, and symmetrical. 

It sounds like the trait of a quirky, control-loving sitcom character.

But if you have OCD, you know how this is a surface-level glimpse at what it really is. One that ignores the very real difficulties this condition brings to everyday life. It is a disorder that requires ongoing OCD therapy.

Approximately 2.3% of the population suffers from OCD and deals with internal mental conflicts on a regular basis. Most of them struggle with it throughout their lives, as OCD is not curable.

From the outside, you may appear oddly stressed about something that doesn’t matter a whole lot, but the irrational reality inside your head is invisible to others. This makes it difficult for others to understand you and provide proper support.

Luckily, the advent of online therapy has made treatment more accessible to people than ever before. If you want to learn more about online therapy for OCD and find out if it’s right for you, you’ve come to the right place.

Why Is OCD Therapy Needed?

OCD is thought to be biological in nature. This is because it is associated with hyperactivity of certain areas of the brain and unusual brain chemistry. Specifically, serotonin.

What accounts for these neurological differences is not known but is suspected to be a combination of genetic and environmental reasons, such as a difficult upbringing. It usually starts during late adolescence or early adulthood but can affect younger individuals as well.

This means that unlike what some believe, OCD is not something you can just “get over” if you try hard enough. It’s part of your biology, and right now, it is not curable.

This is important because OCD also puts you at a higher risk of developing other mental health issues. Major depressive disorder is 10 times more prevalent for those diagnosed with OCD, and 30% of them also get diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.

This creates a compounding effect that only increases the difficulty of coping with this by yourself.

Antidepressants are often prescribed to help better regulate the brain. However, medication alone is rarely the best solution, and therapy in combination with medication is the recommended treatment for OCD.

What Is OCD Therapy Like?

The role of the therapist is providing mental and emotional support, helping you better cope with your condition and learn to maintain a healthy level of control over your obsessions, compulsions, and anxiety, and guiding you toward living a better life as a result.

Your therapist is likely to utilize one of two therapeutic approaches: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP).

Cognitive behavioral therapy

CBT is an approach with proven effectiveness that focuses on observing, analyzing, and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors.

CBT assists in creating a separation between you as an individual and your thoughts. This allows you to better defend yourself from intrusive anxious thoughts and reclaim control of your mind.

As OCD often feels like control over your thoughts and behavior was taken away from you, regaining that sense of control is important for maintaining mental health in everyday life.

This is done by employing a variety of different techniques and strategies. An example of one is cognitive restructuring, in which you challenge irrational thought patterns and learn to replace them with rational ones.

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Exposure and response prevention therapy

ERP is a subtype of CBT and is one of the most effective forms of treatment for OCD overall.

In ERP, the therapist helps you identify what triggers your obsessive thoughts and anxiety. The therapist then creates a setting of controlled exposure to these triggers without allowing for compulsive behavior to take place.

Doing so removes the temporary relief associated with the compulsion and pushes you to face your obsessions and anxiety in a safe space. This allows for finding healthier ways to engage with them and ultimately overcome them.

ERP is a gradual process and the support of the therapist is vital to its success. However, not everyone with OCD is lucky enough to live near a therapist, be able to afford their services, or has enough time in their schedule to travel to and from their office.

Luckily, online counseling is gaining momentum in solving these issues and research about its effectiveness for OCD is very promising. 

Is Online Therapy for OCD Just as Effective?

Recent research has shown that online therapy is indeed just as effective as traditional in-person therapy when it comes to treatment for OCD.

This is not a particularly surprising finding, considering that CBT (and, by extension, ERP) doesn’t differ depending on whether or not you and your therapist are in the same room together.

A video session with a good therapist experienced working with OCD is overall better than an in-person session with one who isn’t.

Being in the same physical space together does help forge the therapeutic relationship of trust faster, which is an important part of the therapy’s effectiveness. But that relationship will ultimately be forged online as well, just a bit slower.

Many online counseling platforms also let you text with your therapist throughout the week and between sessions. This can make quite the difference for those who feel a more frequent need for support.

With lower prices, improved accessibility, and equal effectiveness, online therapy for OCD is a great alternative to in-person therapy. 

Is There Treatment for OCD I Can Do on My Own?

Since OCD causes a lot of anxiety, it’s important to know how to calm yourself down outside of the therapy sessions.

Many of the things you can do on your own are physical activities meant to counterbalance the biological aspects of OCD and anxiety.

However, as in every activity when OCD is a factor, the line between an activity that’s good for you and an activity that has become compulsive is quite thin and must be tread carefully.

These activities are not a replacement for OCD therapy. The support and guidance of your therapist is still very much needed.

Deep breathing exercises

When you breathe deeply, you are signaling to your brain that you’re trying to be relaxed. The brain takes this signal into consideration and activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the part of you that, on a physical level, makes you relaxed. Actively and consciously breathing slower, deeper, and into your belly helps accomplish that.

Meditation

Meditation helps you relax in the same way deep breathing techniques do but is also associated with slower brain waves that help keep you calm. The practice does not require any sort of spiritualism, and you can always start by simply focusing on your breathing as you inhale and exhale.

Exercising  

Doing regular physical activity is known to alleviate the symptoms of OCD. This is because exercising doesn’t only affect your body, but also your brain. When you exercise, your brain releases neurotrophins – proteins that are good for healthy brain activity. A healthy brain is better equipped to cope with the symptoms of OCD. 

So Should I Try Online Therapy for OCD?

Yes.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a serious disorder that poses many challenges throughout life. The advent of CBT and ERP has done wonders to help people cope with their condition, and fortunately – they translate very well to online counseling.

If you or someone close to you is suffering from OCD, know that there’s no reason to struggle alone. Many of the therapists at DoMental are experienced working with OCD and are ready to give you a helping hand, no matter where you live.

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