OCD symptoms may be construed as serving some type of coping or protective function against trauma-related thoughts and emotions that are too psychologically uncomfortable for the person to bear (Gershuny et al.)

What's Your Obsession words and question mark surrounded by arro

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is one of the most common forms of psychological distress that people suffer from. In the UK, the treatment recommended and usually carried out for OCD is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) which I am also trained trained in. My doctoral studies at the University of Manchester involved researching this condition and also involved a critical review of the treatment outcome studies for OCD. It should be pointed out that a large number of OCD sufferers (62%) are excluded from Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) for OCD because they are deemed too complex. Additionally, of those that do begin an ERP/CBT based treatment, around 50% drop out. Of those that do finish treatment and improve, a significant number need further treatment at a later date.

Many experienced psychologists/psychotherapists see OCD as a coping strategy to cope with/avoid experiencing difficult emotions. This fits with the outcome of my research where I identified grief, loss, trauma, shame and loneliness as the key factors which lead to OCD for many people. Please note, I am not saying all OCD has a trauma based onset. OCD is complex with more than one cause. Adults and children can develop OCD as a way to have order and manage their anxiety without any trauma being involved. I would recommend that if you believe your OCD symptoms to be mild then initially you should seek out an ERP treatment. However, if you believe that your OCD may be a coping strategy to avoid feeling the emotions I have described above then ERP will probably not work for you. I believe that it is only when a person can work through some of the grief, loss, shame and trauma mentioned above that they can then let their obsessions and compulsions go and that is what I concentrate on when I work with OCD.



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