treating ocd

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatments

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that causes obsessions and resulting compulsions, or rituals, that begin to take over your daily life. Although there is no cure for obsessive-compulsive disorder, finding the right treatment plan can help significantly with learning how to deal with your condition and how to regain control of your life.

The most common treatment options after initial diagnosis are psychotherapy and medications. Treatment is usually most effective with a combination of both.


The most effective psychiatric treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder is called cognitive behavior therapy (CRT).  And, more specifically, the most effective type of CRT for OCD is called exposure and response prevention (ERP). 

This type of therapy is performed by a licensed mental health professional—including psychologists, social workers, or mental health counselors. It involves gradually exposing you to a feared object or obsession, such as dirt, and then helping you to learn healthy ways to cope with your anxiety instead of resorting to compulsions. ERP can be very difficult and exhausting, but if you are able to manage your obsessions and compulsions instead of letting them control you, you will be able to enjoy a much better quality of life.


OCD is caused by a blockage in flow of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Therefore, the most effective medications for obsessive-compulsive disorder are antidepressants called SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Other medications commonly prescribed are called tricyclic antidepressants. Here is a list of the most common medications prescribed for OCD:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox CR)

At first, it can be hard to figure out which medication works best for you. It is not unusual to have to try multiple medications before finding the right one to manage your symptoms. Additionally, some medications can take weeks or even months before you are able to notice improvement.

Never stop taking your medications without talking to your doctor. Although antidepressants aren’t considered “addictive,” you can develop a physical dependence on them which can cause withdrawal-like symptoms if you suddenly stop taking them. If you do need to stop your medications for any reason, work with your doctor to work out a plan for gradually and safely decreasing your dose.

Intensive Treatment Centers

If you need a more intensive level of care for your OCD symptoms, there are other options. Here is a list of the different types of treatment centers from least to most intensive:

  • Traditional outpatient: You see a therapist for individual sessions about two or three times a week.
  • Intensive outpatient: You attend group and individual sessions once a day, several days a week.
  • Day program: You attend treatment five days a week, usually from 9 am until 5 pm.
  • Partial hospitalization: This is the same as the day program, but you attend therapy at a mental hospital.
  • Residential: You are treated while living voluntarily at a mental health treatment center or hospital.
  • Inpatient: This is the highest level of care. Treatment is provided in a locked unit of a mental hospital on a voluntary or involuntary basis. You would only be admitted to this type of facility if you were no longer able to care for yourself or if you became a danger to others around you. 
Last Updated: September 06, 2016