Why does evidence-based treatment (ERP) for OCD matter?
The short answer
That’s a good question. The short answer is that it matters because if you are suffering from OCD, you want to feel better as quickly as you reasonably can. Researchers have found that a majority of people will benefit from either medicine or a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy: these are considered the first-line treatments for OCD. As a specialist in the treatment of OCD,
- I have been trained in ERP. What’s great about ERP is that through this type of OCD therapy, you learn the skills you need to reduce OCD symptoms and manage flare-ups in the future. And if you do periodic ERP maintenance on your own, the symptom reduction effects can be long-lasting. ERP works for the majority of people who do it, and we typically see 60-80% symptom reduction.
- I support the use of medication for OCD, and for people who benefit from it, they usually see symptom reduction of 40-60%, according to the IOCDF. You do need to take the medicine as prescribed for it to work, and if you stop taking it symptoms can go back to their previous level. That’s why it’s best, if you are going to take medicine, to learn ERP as well. I have a network of colleagues who are psychiatrists and are familiar with OCD, and I’m happy to refer my clients to one of them and/or speak with your psychiatrist (with your permission) to coordinate care, if you choose to take medicine. And by the way, not everyone wants to take medicine at all or for the long-term, and that’s OK, too!
I am passionate about helping people with OCD using the evidence-based treatment for the disorder, exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP). If you’d like to talk with me about how I could help you take back your life from OCD, please call me at 404-632-4804 or fill out the Contact Shala form.
The long answer
According to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), on average it takes someone suffering from OCD 14 – 17 years from the time their symptoms first begin until they get the right treatment. Can you believe that? 14 – 17 years. You can go through all of elementary, middle, and high school in a shorter amount of time that it takes most people to get relief from OCD.
Why does it take so long? The IOCDF has some thoughts on the challenges people with OCD face, which I will paraphrase here. Fortunately, many of us in the OCD community (myself included) are working hard to eradicate or reduce as many of these challenges as possible.
- Shame and fear of stigma: Many people feel very ashamed of their OCD symptoms. The symptoms make no sense to them, and they wonder, “What in the world will people think if I told them that I did these strange things or had these bizarre thoughts?” People can also be concerned about stigma, such as worrying about what would happen to them if other people found out they have OCD.
- Low awareness or a misunderstanding of OCD: In the past, many people were not even aware that what they were suffering from had a name, much less a treatment! Today, many people misunderstand what OCD is, thinking it’s a personality quirk as opposed to a brain disorder (as I discuss in my blog post OCD is Not What You Think) that can be effectively treated.
- Not being able to afford treatment: Unfortunately as with any illness, there is a cost for treatment, and sometimes insurance does not cover this cost or only covers part of it.
- Lack of properly trained health professionals: This challenge has two parts:
- Sometimes people don’t get diagnosed with OCD for many years or they get diagnosed with something else, leading to the incorrect treatment.
- Once people get diagnosed with OCD, it can take many years to find a therapist trained in the effective treatment for OCD. Many times people will spend years going from therapist to therapist getting all kinds of treatment, none of which seem to help.
The goods news
This last point is the crux of why research-based treatment for OCD matters. The good news is that we do have a treatment that works for most people. Again, about the majority people with OCD will benefit from either medicine or a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.
The bad news
The bad news is that OCD doesn’t seem to respond well to therapy that is not based on exposure and response prevention (ERP). Many people with OCD will spend years going from therapist to therapist, getting a variety of types of treatment such as talk therapy, cognitive therapy (without ERP), thought stopping, relaxation, meditation/mindfulness without ERP… even being told to wrap rubber bands around their wrists and flip themselves whenever they have a bad thought! It would be wonderful if these techniques would work for OCD, but most of the time they just don’t, leading to needless and sometimes debilitating suffering.
The bottom line
If you have OCD, you don’t want to wait 14 – 17 years to get the right treatment! You want your life back! I’m passionate about helping people with OCD using the research-based treatment for the disorder, exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP). If you’d like to talk with me about how I could help you take back your life from OCD, please call me at 404-632-4804 or fill out the Contact Shala form.