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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


What is OCD:

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized in two parts: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted and intrusive thoughts or feelings that begin to cause anxiety and distress that interrupt daily tasks. In response to these thoughts or feelings, the person begins to engage in repetitive behaviors that reduce anxiety, called compulsions or rituals. The compulsion is used to neutralize or counteract the anxiety. Although most sufferers recognize that their obsessions are irrational the compulsive behavior feels gratifying and causes the individual to feel less anxious and distressed.

Approximately 1%-2% of the general population suffers from OCD, a condition that typically presents in adolescence or early adulthood. Symptoms may also present in very young children as well. Symptoms often flare up during periods of increased stress. Many OCD sufferers do not seek treatment, often citing feelings of shame or embarrassment about the nature of their obsessions and/or compulsions. Studies suggest that OCD sufferers go between 12-17 years from the onset of symptoms before getting treatment from an Exposure and Response Prevention specialist.

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Obsession Symptoms Include:

  • Guilt
  • Irritability
  • Lack of enjoyment
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawing from close friends
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Repetitive negative thoughts and statements
  • Insomnia or Oversleeping
  • Change appetite or weight gain/loss

Compulsion Symptoms Include:

  • Decontamination and excessive bathroom routines
  • Checking locks, appliances, and doors
  • Mentally reviewing situations
  • Rearranging and ordering things in special ways
  • Reassurance seeking
  • Ritualistic religious behaviors
  • Counting
  • Tapping, blinking, and touching objects repeatedly

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment:

  • The most proven, effective treatment of OCD is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Treatment is particularly important for people who have developed ritualized, repetitive behaviors such as compulsions. ERP is a necessary component of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for most anxiety conditions, particularly OCD. The two components include exposures: Facing fears in a systematic, gradual, and purposeful manner to elicit anxiety; and response (or ritual) prevention, which is actively resisting safety behaviors and other avoidant strategies that only offer a short-term reduction of symptoms, but maintain the cycle of anxiety and avoidance in the long-term. Both elements are critical for effective ERP. Through the ERP process, the individual overcomes fears, gains corrective information, and retrains the brain to no longer elicit a fight or flight reaction in the face of these “false alarms.” Our therapists will guide you to progressively face the situations and thoughts that provoke your OCD while learning how not to react with rituals, compulsions, reassurance seeking, or avoidance.
  • We also offer Treatment Intensives for OCD sufferers in cases where no available ERP specialists are in your geographic area, when services are simply not easily accessible, or because symptom severity is too high for weekly outpatient therapy. The treatment is customized to meet the level of need, availability, and readiness for change to address current symptoms and get the individual to a higher level of functioning, whereby more traditional outpatient therapy can be the level of care. The goal of an Treatment Intensives is to complete this level of treatment within three to five weeks and then step down to the outpatient level of care. Therefore, our Treatment Intensives typically requires sessions back to back days, or at least several times per week, several hours per day, and sometimes over the weekend.

For More Information:


Anxiety Specialists of Atlanta is now an Institutional Member of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF). The mission of the IOCDF is important to us and aligns with our group’s goal of bringing specialized treatment to the OCD community. We hope that the Institutional Member designation will help communities in Georgia and in the over 35 states we serve to get better connected with effective treatment.

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