Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) refers to a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that cause an individual to perform repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These thought patterns and behaviors significantly impact a person’s daily activities and quality of life.
What is Exposure and Response Prevention?
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that is effectively used to treat OCD. ERP exposes the individual to thoughts, images, objects, and situations that trigger the obsessive thoughts and guides them through the event, helping them to avoid their usual compulsions and make different choices.
The idea of putting yourself in a triggering situation may make you feel anxious, but this is all done under the guidance of a trained therapist. When you give in to the compulsions less and less, you begin to feel a steady drop in your anxiety, which leads to a reduction in the urge to obsess.
Your Anxiety is an Alarm System
Every time you feel anxiety, it is your nervous system’s way of trying to keep you safe. If you were alone in a parking garage late at night and you saw a motion in a dark corner, your nervous system would make you feel anxious to alert you to potential danger.
In people with OCD, the alarm system is revved up, alerting them to things that are not really dangerous. And every time you give in to these alarms and perform a set of behaviors, you are reinforcing a false reality that you are in danger when you really are not.
By stopping you from reacting, ERP helps you send a signal to your nervous system that you are safe and all is well. Eventually, this becomes your new reality.
If you would like to explore ERP treatment, please give my office a call. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about this effective treatment for OCD.