How Can I Find The Best OCD Therapist Near Me?

By: Michael Puskar

Updated June 23, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

OCD, which is short for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is a condition that can be debilitating is treatable. It is classified alongside other anxiety-based disorders, although it is separate from general anxiety.

Do You Have OCD?

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If you think that you have OCD, it will be beneficial to receive a formal diagnosis from a therapist or medical doctor.

Unlike the public perception of OCD as a condition only related to organization and cleanliness, it is, in reality, much deeper than that, and can have many different obsessional themes, which are also sometimes also referred to as intrusive thoughts. Here are some common ones that a person with OCD will experience:

  • Unwanted violent or sexual thoughts
  • Fear of germs or being contaminated
  • An intense focus on religion or morality

Sometimes obsessions can be less specific and involve worrying about forgetting to do something, such as locking the door or making sure the stove is turned off. Additionally, people may be affected by multiple themes. For example, a person might obsess and worry about doing something that goes against his or her religion but might never experience the same stress towards germs or symmetry.

It's important to note that the thoughts that an OCD sufferer has are unwanted and distressing, and this is especially true for those who deal with explicit themes. The thoughts go against the person's values, which can cause them to worry and question themselves.

Because these thoughts are undesirable and create stress, an individual may perform specific actions to reduce anxiety and push the thoughts away. These are known as compulsions, and they are typically ritualistic and carried out repetitively. These are some examples of compulsions that someone with OCD may perform:

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  • Checking
  • Washing
  • Counting
  • Organizing
  • Saying mantras (phrases)
  • Seeking reassurance
  • Avoidance

Regardless of the content of the thoughts, all OCD sufferers will have these obsessions and compulsions and spend a great deal of time and energy controlling or trying to eliminate them. People with OCD also typically recognize their thoughts as absurd and delusional, which separates it from psychotic disorders. Nonetheless, they are still burdensome, and OCD can be detrimental to one's quality of life.

If you haven't been diagnosed yet, but all of this is familiar to you, a mental health professional will be able to easily confirm whether you have OCD by describing your situation. Receiving a diagnosis and discussing what's on your mind will get you on the right track to getting treated.

How Is OCD Treated?

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OCD has a few different treatment options, but thankfully, the ones that are currently available are very effective. Just a few decades ago, OCD was considered a life-sentence and untreatable, but nowadays it can be successfully managed, if not eliminated. [1]

One of the most widely recognized treatments for OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

It has also been useful for treating depression and anxiety, and because OCD is centered around thoughts and beliefs and how people respond to them, it has been a practical modality for treating it.

CBT is a form of talk therapy that is designed to change a patient's negative thought patterns into constructive or positive ones. For instance, in OCD a person can perceive a situation as extremely harmful when the actual severity is low or nonexistent, and the threat of something bad happening is exaggerated [2]

A classic example is the one related to public doorknobs and germs. An OCD sufferer will believe that if they do not wash his or her hands, a severe disease will be contracted and can be spread to someone else. The worst that can happen is catching a common cold, but to the person with OCD, it is perceived as a major threat.

OCD patients also require evidence for safety, and if that is not there, it is automatically assumed to be dangerous. This contrasts with people without OCD, who need evidence for something to be dangerous; a situation or object is considered safe unless proven otherwise [2].

To alter this way of thinking, a therapist will need to address the subject of their patient's fears directly. This is done by exposing the individuals to the themes of their obsessions.

A specific form of CBT therapy that carries this out is appropriately known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), also sometimes referred to as Exposure and Ritual Prevention (EX/RP).

The premise of ERP is by subjecting the patient to their thoughts and resisting the urge to perform their compulsions; they will gradually become desensitized to the obsessions.

This can be done in two different ways [2]:

Exposure in vivo: involves physically confronting the triggers for obsessional thoughts. For instance, touching a public object and abstaining from hand-washing will reduce the anxiety towards germs.

Imaginal exposure: the patient imagines the distressing obsessions and the perceived consequences of them. This is useful for themes that are explicit and cannot be exposed to in reality (i.e., might be illegal or have real health consequences)

Following these primary exposure methods, the results will be processed by the therapist. He or she will ask you to measure your stress levels to a situation and compare it to how you felt before receiving treatment.

Because of this, CBT and ERP are some of the only methods that are supported by empirical evidence and have quantifiable data to support it. Even in the earliest trials, 66 percent of chronic OCD sufferers reported a significant improvement in their condition, whereas 20 percent partially improved [2].

Therefore, the probability that receiving treatment and seeing results is very high and millions of OCD patients have praised CBT and ERP's efficacy.

If you've been trying to learn what the best OCD therapist should offer, they should be trained and have experience with CBT, and ideally, ERP therapy. In addition to helping you achieve results and decrease your anxiety towards triggers, your therapist should also help you avoid relapses and maintain all of your progress.

How To Find Your OCD Therapist

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There are a few ways to find a local therapist that works with OCD patients.

The quickest therapist finder is your favorite online search engine. By looking up "OCD therapist near me," you should find at least one result. It can either be private practice or a clinic.

Following this, you should view their credentials and confirm that they have the necessary experience in treating OCD. If they are the right fit, you can contact them, and see if you can make an appointment and perform an initial assessment.

Another way to get connected to an OCD specialist is through your primary doctor. This is a practical option for those who have a specific medical insurance plan, especially one provided by an employer. The physician may be able to connect you with a therapist that is in the same network.

Finally, another option is to try online therapy. While an online therapist won't be with you during any real-life exposure scenarios, they can still give you instructions on how to practice them on your own. In-person therapists have been known to give homework assignments as well, so it's entirely possible to work semi-independently.

At BetterHelp.com, there are licensed, professional counselors and therapists who work with many patients with different conditions, including OCD. Online therapy offers you an affordable and convenient way to receive treatment and should be considered if you somehow cannot receive in-person ERP sessions.

Conclusion

OCD can be incredibly challenging to tackle by yourself and having a great therapist who knows the ins and outs of the condition can be a crucial part in helping you take your life back.

OCD Therapy isn't as straightforward as just talking and being counseled; instead, it involves specific techniques that change the way you think about stressors. Cognitive behavioral therapy does exactly that, and a subtype of it known as Exposure and Response Prevention has been demonstrated to be successful in treating those with OCD because it exposes people to the sources of their OCD.

By resisting compulsions and refusing to carry out rituals, the patient will gradually become less anxious towards their obsessions. Essentially, it's not the thoughts that are problematic; rather, it's how we respond to them.

OCD can be complicated, but the way it is treated is the same for everyone. Therefore, if you're going to run a search on "the best OCD therapist near me," you should focus on whether they have experience using CBT and ERP on patients, rather than tackling the specific themes that bother you.

Whether you decide to go with in-person or online therapy, seeking help is the first step to take to improve your life. To learn more about OCD and related conditions, BetterHelp has informative articles like this one that not only aim to teach others about mental health concerns but also encourage people to find the treatment that they deserve.

Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can OCD Go Away On Its Own?

In a sense, OCD can go away on its own, because everyone has intrusive thoughts, but the difference between someone developing the disorder and someone who doesn’t ultimately depend on whether or not they respond to their thoughts.

Those who don’t have OCD don’t place importance on the thoughts that pop in their minds and just let them pass, whereas people with OCD will respond to them, and this how it can be so persistent.

Nonetheless, individuals shouldn’t expect OCD to get better with time alone and hope that it disappears, and instead, taking an active approach to overcoming it through education and finding help.

Should I See A Therapist?

Although beating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is highly-dependent on educating yourself on how the disorder persists and understanding that in order for the intrusive thoughts to stop, you need to stop performing compulsions in response to them, seeing a therapist can give you the guidance necessary to successfully overcome OCD.

In general, therapy involves methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy to help people stop their compulsive behaviors and change their negative thought patterns.

Unfortunately, many people who never seek therapy try to manage OCD on their own but fall short because they still try to control their thoughts and try to relieve the anxiety that comes from them.

In addition to therapy, people can find many support groups for OCD, which allows you to connect with others who have OCD. Some communities, such as the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), also hosts an OCD conference each year that is dedicated to education and providing support for attendees.

Where Can You Get Help For OCD?

OCD is a very common mental health disorder, and treatment for it is widely available, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy because it's a method that is used to address many different mental health issues, not just OCD.

You can find OCD therapists in-person, or you can connect to one online through BetterHelp’s online counseling and therapy services. BetterHelp makes getting treatment for OCD simple, affordable, and as stress-free as possible so that you can focus on improving and getting your life back. Please refer to the “How To Find Your Therapist” section above to learn more.

How Do You Help Someone With OCD Counseling?

Aside from therapy, having support from friends and family can be a valuable asset in the treatment of OCD. If you personally don’t have OCD, but you have a loved one that does or is showing the signs of it, you can guide them in the right direction and help them get evaluated and treated by a mental health professional.

While they are going through their treatment for OCD, all you need to do is show your understanding, be patient, and try to be as accommodating as possible, while they try to tackle this significant obstacle in their life.

What Is The Best Medicine For OCD?

Even though treating OCD primarily involves psychotherapy, medication may be prescribed by your doctor or psychiatrist to help manage the symptoms of OCD and help you progress through behavioral therapy.

Medication for OCD typically involves a type of antidepressant known as a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, which is most commonly used to treat depression, but it has also provided relief for people with OCD. Consult with your doctor or psychiatrist, if your symptoms are severe and think you may benefit from medication to treat OCD.

Can Antidepressants Make OCD Worse?

Although antidepressants have improved over time to become safer and more tolerable, they still have potential side-effects that you should be aware of if you decide to receive a prescription from a doctor for the treatment of OCD.

For some people, symptoms may seem worse when starting medical treatment for OCD, depression, and other anxiety disorders, such as feeling more anxious or lethargic, but this typically goes away with time; it usually takes a few weeks for antidepressants to start working as intended.

Can OCD Turn Into Schizophrenia or Make You Psychotic?

Intrusive thoughts can seem extremely realistic and can make you feel that you’re losing touch with reality because they can cause false memories that can leave you wondering if something bad really happened; however, they are not hallucinations, nor are they delusions, because people with OCD find their thoughts disturbing because it is not an accurate reflection of their character.

In schizophrenia, these thoughts tend to be false beliefs that they believe are true, whereas, in OCD, people recognize that their thoughts are irrational and bizarre, or just plain wrong.

On the other hand, people with schizophrenia may develop symptoms of OCD, especially certain repetitive behaviors, so there is some overlap, but people who do develop schizophrenia don’t have it because of OCD.

Also, unlike schizophrenia, which is a psychotic disorder, OCD is more closely related to anxiety disorders, but in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition by the American Psychiatric Association, OCD belongs to its own category, Obsessive-Compulsive & Related Disorders.

What Are The Four Types of OCD?

OCD can take on many different themes, but in general, they can be grouped into four main categories:

  • Contamination
  • Harm
  • Organization & Symmetry
  • Taboo or Socially-Unacceptable Ideas

As mentioned earlier in this article, contamination, and organization and symmetry, are typically what the public thinks of when they hear the term “obsessive-compulsive disorder.” However, OCD can also have a much darker side to it, and the content of the thoughts can also be violent and sexual in nature, which is a side of OCD that isn’t talked about enough in the media. This contributes to a misunderstanding of what the disorder really is.

Organizations such as BetterHelp, the International OCD Foundation, especially with their yearly OCD conference, and the American Psychological Association (APA) are committed to educating people about the facts about OCD, and over time, this can help break down any misunderstandings and potentially change the public perception of what OCD is.

Can You Have OCD and Be Messy?

Although cleanliness and organization can certainly be compulsions for the thoughts that some OCD sufferers have, they aren’t symptoms, and not everyone with the disorder will have them.

In fact, if someone with OCD doesn’t have themes that are associated with contamination, organization, and symmetry, it’s unlikely that they will have any compulsions that are related to them, and therefore, can be messy.

For some people with OCD, their intrusive thoughts might be so overwhelming that they are too worried or preoccupied to clean or organize anything as well.

What Triggers OCD?

What triggers OCD in someone may be entirely different from someone else, and there are countless different possible triggers that can occur.

For instance, someone who has contamination OCD might be triggered by the thought of having germs on their hands and have the compulsions to wash them repeatedly, whereas another individual with Harm OCD might have a fear of accidentally leaving the stove on and burning down their house and will check the appliance multiple times until they feel convinced that it is off and that nothing bad will happen.

Therefore, your triggers will be unique to the types of intrusive thoughts that you are experiencing.

Is OCD Genetic?

The exact cause of OCD isn’t known, but it most likely occurs due to different factors, particularly biological, environmental, and social factors.

There may be a genetic component to the development of OCD, and people who have family members with it might be more at risk; however, other factors can just be as impactful.

For example, someone might start having OCD because of something horrible that they heard on the news or because of something that is considered taboo in their culture.

How Does Someone With OCD Feel?

Because the thoughts are so distressing, people with OCD tend to feel constantly anxious, worried, and uncomfortable.

If an individual becomes triggered, these feelings can be amplified and become more extreme until they are able to perform their compulsion to reduce their anxiety.

However, individuals with OCD might have “good days” where their symptoms are mild, whereas it can flare up, and in some cases, cause panic attacks.

Because OCD consumes a lot of a person’s energy, individuals with the disorder can also feel mentally exhausted as well.

Is OCD A Serious Mental Illness? How Bad Can OCD Get?

OCD is one of the most impairing mental health conditions, and it can severely reduce a person’s quality of life in many different ways. For instance, it’s common for people to spend too much time carrying out compulsions to reduce anxiety and actively trying to avoid triggers for their intrusive thoughts.

Therefore, if you are experiencing signs of OCD, it’s always best to seek out the treatment of OCD by finding a therapist as soon as possible, but it’s never too late to get help and start treating OCD if it has interfered with your life for many years.

Does OCD Get Worse With Age? Why Is My OCD Getting Worse?

People can get OCD at any age, and If left untreated, OCD tends to get worse because people will develop compulsions to find relief from their thoughts or even try to rationalize them.

The intrusive thoughts and compulsions can become a significant part of someone’s life, and people can invest an enormous amount of energy trying to “deal” with them. This only reinforces OCD and makes it more powerful and persistent.

Unfortunately, OCD can also lead to people becoming depressed because their symptoms have negatively impacted their lives, and having a comorbid disorder like depression can certainly make the problem worse.

Who Is Famous That Has OCD?

If you are struggling with OCD, one of the most important things to realize is that you are not alone. In addition to the effective treatment methods out there and the support you can find from people around you, you might also find relief knowing that there many famous and successful individuals who have OCD and have to work to manage it just like you.

Some examples of noteworthy people who have or had OCD are:

  • Howie Mandel
  • David Beckham
  • Jessica Alba
  • Nicholas Cage
  • Lena Dunham
  • Howard Stern
  • Megan Fox
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Cameron Diaz
  • Billy Bob Thornton

All of these individuals have discussed publicly about their OCD, and although the content of their thoughts and the severity of them can vary, it was important enough to them to speak up about it and create awareness. Some celebrities also attend the annual OCD conference provided by the International OCD Foundation as well.

Conclusion

OCD can be incredibly challenging to tackle by yourself, and having a great therapist who knows the ins and outs of the condition can be a crucial part of helping you take your life back.

OCD Therapy isn't as straightforward as just talking and being counseled; instead, it involves specific techniques that change the way you think about stressors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy does exactly that, and a subtype of it known as Exposure and Response Prevention has been demonstrated to be successful in treating those with OCD because it exposes people to the sources of their OCD.

By resisting compulsions and refusing to carry out rituals, the patient will gradually become less anxious towards their obsessions. Essentially, it's not the thoughts that are problematic; rather, it's how we respond to them.

OCD can be complicated, but the way it is treated is the same for everyone. Therefore, if you're going to run a search on "the best OCD therapist near me," you should focus on whether they have experience using CBT and ERP on patients, rather than tackling the specific themes that bother you.

Whether you decide to go with in-person or online therapy, seeking help is the first step to take to improve your life. To learn more about OCD and related conditions, BetterHelp has informative articles like this one that not only aim to teach others about mental health concerns but also encourage people to find the treatment that they deserve.

References

Lack, C. W. (2012). Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Evidence-based treatments and future directions for research. World Journal of Psychiatry, 2(6), 86. doi:10.5498/wjp.v2.i6.86

Foa, E. B., Ph.D. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 12(2), 199-207. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181959/.


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