Volume II Issue 2


OCD Awareness Month

by Katherine Yost, PhD, LMFT

Did you know that October is OCD Awareness Month?

Why would a family systems therapist need to know about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder anyway?

First, Anxiety Disorders have become THE MOST COMMON presenting problem in mental health. You need to know about OCD because at least three million Americans (kids, teens and adults) have been diagnosed with OCD. You will see it in your practice.

Sadly, most people with OCD are confused, ashamed and will wait for years before seeking help. Then, they go through an average of SEVEN therapists before getting a correct diagnosis and finding someone qualified to treat the disorder. If you can help with the diagnosis, you have been a big help!

OCD is a brain-based disorder that is known for having repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts (Did I really turn off the stove? What if the house burns down!) and neutralizing behaviors or rituals (checking and touching the stove several times). The most common, and responsive to treatment, forms are checking and contamination. Children often manifest with “Just so” –needing to have their clothes or toys or room in just so order and with demanding reassurance (Do you promise I won’t vomit at school?).

The evidence is in and it is solid: including partners and parents in therapy makes a huge difference for treating OCD.

Second, OCD is best treated with a two-pronged approached: CBT with Exposure and Response Prevention, and Family Therapy. People respond faster and better and stay well longer when the treatment includes Family Therapy. OCD impacts the whole family. This is because adults, teens, and children with OCD tend to try to force the family to “accommodate” the OCD rituals, including reassurance and avoidance and participating in the OCD rules and rituals. Unfortunately, this accommodation exacerbates the OCD.

Meanwhile family members can get frustrated, critical, and hostile (Why can’t they just stop!). Many people with OCD become depressed and/or aggressive. Family therapy is the perfect intervention to empower families to participate in helpful ways. The evidence is in and it is solid: including partners and parents in therapy makes a huge difference for treating OCD.

October is the month for OCD Awareness. For the best source of accurate information and opportunities is the IOCDF website at http://iocdf.org.

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