Tuesday, October 18, 2011

OCD Awareness: {ERP Therapy part 1}

Today I'm continuing my series on OCD. If you've missed the previous posts in this series, here they are:

Those who struggle with OCD are not without hope! There are treatments and therapy that have been proven to e effective. Of course with many types of disorders, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is proven through numerous research studies to be the most effective. One type of CBT, called Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP), is especially effective. 

"Exposure refers to confronting the thoughts, images, objects and situations that make you anxious" (source, p.8). Of course this seems counter-intuitive, because in life, and especially with OCD, it's all about trying to decrease anxiety by doing something (compulsion) to deal with the obsession. Response Prevention means that "once you have come in contact with the things that make you anxious, you make a choice to not do the compulsive behavior" (source, p.8). Again, this doesn't seem to make sense. Why would someone make an active choice to sit in the anxiety without trying to do anything about it? On the surface level, if you try to ignore the thing that makes you anxious, the anxiety level will tend to sky rocket. Here's the neat thing that most of us don't realize, because we don't give this a chance to happen: if you can sit in the anxiety and not do the compulsive behavior, you will notice that eventually your anxiety level will drop. "The drop in your anxiety that happens when you stay 'exposed' and 'prevent' the compulsive 'response' is called habituation" (source, p.8).

For someone struggling with OCD, the idea of ERP can be absolutely terrifying. What might happen, or what might I become, if I can't do a compulsion to make the thought or situation right? The idea of sitting in anxiety and learning to deal with it is fairly horrifying to some, and can lead to panic at just the thought of this. 

Keep your eyes out for a follow up post on ERP! 

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