6 Ways To Treat OCD Effectively

Updated May 31, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness characterized by unwanted, reoccurring thoughts. The OCD Awareness Week every 2nd week of October aims to enlighten people about the symptoms of OCD so that more can get proper treatment. Living with the symptoms of OCD can feel isolating. 

The constant flow of unpleasant thoughts or compulsions may irritate you or make you feel unhinged. It is essential to know that you are not alone; this disorder affects more than 2.2 million people across the world, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. There are several different ways that the disorder can be effectively treated and managed. 

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Symptoms

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a “long-lasting mental health disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

There are at least four different types of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which include symmetry, contamination, doubt and harm, and unacceptable thoughts. However, not everyone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) deals with one of these four types as a textbook case. 

Is OCD Becoming More Difficult To Manage?

There are many branches of OCD associated with the four main types. For example, many people experience OCD symptoms focused on food as a type of contamination OCD. These people may experience no other symptoms of contamination OCD, but feel that some foods are dirty and should be avoided. This can result in disorderly eating as the person with OCD endeavors to find “safe” foods. 

Another example is confession OCD, wherein people with OCD must confess their perceived wrongdoings or unpleasant thoughts. This symptom of OCD is likely rooted in shame about obsessive thoughts. One OCD subtype is relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder (ROCD), wherein an individual experiences obsessive thoughts about their partner and/or their relationship with them. 

As you can see, there are many different symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and not everyone matches the “standard” types. 

How To Treat Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Effectively: Coping Mechanisms, Therapy, And More

OCD is considered a chronic disorder, meaning it is a lifelong condition. People with OCD will likely experience some symptoms forever, regardless of treatment. 

However, this does not mean the condition is untreatable. There are many effective ways to treat OCD that may improve the quality of life for the person affected. The symptoms may not go away entirely, but the person with OCD typically gains more control and stability in everyday life. 

OCD constantly being researched, and new treatment methods are discovered every few years. Still, the treatment methods listed below are the most effective for those who experience OCD.

1. Determine Your Triggers

One way to get treatment for OCD is to acknowledge your triggers. Although the condition can sometimes be a constant flow of obsessive thoughts throughout the day, you likely have some triggers, whether you realize them or not. Sometimes, OCD symptoms are triggered by the fear of losing a loved one. Or, they can be triggered by concerns about getting sick. For some, a lack of sleep can significantly trigger their OCD symptoms the following day. 

When you understand the triggers that cause your compulsions, you can begin to manage your symptoms. You can learn to prepare yourself for the trigger. Then, you can generate healthy coping mechanisms such as taking deep breaths or going for a walk.

2. Understand Your Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Understanding OCD can be helpful for those with the disease. Knowing what is going on in your brain to cause you to think the way you do can help you to heal. There are many books about OCD that explain what is going on inside the brain when someone feels the need to act on an obsession. 

One such book is Brain Lock by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz. In this book, Dr. Schwartz explains his findings while studying OCD at UCLA and outlines some practical ways to heal your brain. The book offers expert insight and brain scans to help you understand how OCD is treated.

The more you understand your symptoms, the more control you may have over your racing thoughts. OCD is caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain. Thus, coming to an understanding of your disorder can be comforting. 

3. Get To The Root Of Your Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Many people with OCD can pinpoint the moment their compulsions start. Typically, these starting points occur in times of fear or uncertainty. Sometimes, understanding why your OCD started and the feeling that caused you to have the compulsions can help you.

Knowing when your symptoms started can help you further understand why your brain is doing what it’s doing. It is widespread for people to start compulsions as a coping mechanism, only to have them develop into an endless, painful cycle. When you pinpoint the start of your disorderly behaviors, you can do some self-reflection. If you have a counselor, it may be a good idea to tell them the beginning of your compulsions so that they can also understand the root.

4. Improve Your Diet

When learning how to treat OCD symptoms, a factor that should not be ignored is your diet. Dropping blood sugar, for example, can make you tired and worsen your mood, which could trigger a downward spiral. To prevent this, it is recommended people with OCD eat a healthy breakfast each morning. Eating nutritious foods and complex carbs throughout the day can help stabilize blood sugar levels. Avoiding processed foods is also recommended, as these can add unneeded stress to the body.

People with OCD may consider keeping a food journal to track their food consumption relative to the anxiety they experience. This can help you pinpoint which foods tend to accompany specific OCD symptoms. 

Every person is different, and every person processes foods differently. So, if you notice that some foods, such as dairy or gluten, put more stress on your body, try to avoid them. This can improve your OCD symptoms and make them more manageable.

5. Consider Taking An SSRI

Another way to treat OCD is to take an SSRI. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are a type of pharmaceutical drug that helps increase serotonin levels in the brain. A lack of serotonin can significantly contribute to OCD symptoms. Thus, taking an SSRI is sometimes helpful in treating OCD. Although medicine will not cure OCD, it can make the symptoms much more manageable. 

There are many different SSRIs on the market. Talking openly about your side effects and levels of anxiety about the drug you are taking will help you find the right one. Remember that it can take a few trials to find the best SSRI for you and your symptoms.

Is OCD Becoming More Difficult To Manage?

6. Get Help From A Licensed Counselor

One thing you can do when experiencing OCD is to seek the help of a licensed counselor for treatment. One effective treatment for OCD is ERP therapy, a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Through these therapy sessions, the patient and counselor will find healthy ways to cope with OCD symptoms. A counselor can help you learn how to treat your OCD effectively. 


It may not be easy for a person with OCD to keep an in-person appointment with a mental health professional. Sometimes, the compulsions associated with this mental illness can be time-consuming and even debilitating. Online therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be a viable solution. With this treatment, you can connect with trained mental health counselors via the internet at a time and place that works best for you.  

You may wonder if online counseling is an effective way to treat your symptoms. Research suggests it can be. A recent UK study found that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) reduced OCD symptoms and anxiety and depression related to the disorder among study participants. 

For online counseling, BetterHelp is one option. BetterHelp has hundreds of licensed counselors specializing in OCD and other anxiety disorders. They can help you better understand your symptoms and seek healing from OCD.

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