What Are the Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

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  • Written By: C. Webb
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2019
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Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is an often-used treatment method for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Research shows that seven out of 10 people treated for OCD with cognitive behavior therapy will benefit from it. In many cases, patients see a 60 to 80 percent reduction in symptoms.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental health issue with an anxiety base. Those who suffer from OCD can have obsessive thoughts, chronic compulsions, or a combination of both. The OCD patient feels that something bad will happen if thoughts are not repeated or compulsions are not followed. Examples of compulsions include the need to count to a certain number, repeat certain phrases, check the door locks a certain number of times, and turning around three times in a counter-clockwise direction every time the patient enters a room.

The most successful style of cognitive behavioral therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder is exposure and response prevention (ERP). This therapy style gets the patient to face his or her fear, obsession, or situation that causes the anxiety. As the anxiety begins, the patient is encouraged not to perform the compulsive behavior that he or she believes is necessary to stop bad things from happening. When nothing bad happens, the patient moves closer to understanding he or she does not actually control the outcome, and the compulsions are not needed.


A primary benefit of cognitive behavioral therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder is the elimination of compulsion needs. Compulsions can become severe enough that they interfere with daily life. For example, a hand-washing ritual may be repeated hundreds of times per day. This makes it impossible to function in normal society. Eliminating the compulsion helps give the person control of his or her life.

The secondary benefit of cognitive behavioral therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder is the reduction of anxiety. This disorder is anxiety based and is capable of interfering with work and family life. If through cognitive behavioral therapy the patient's anxiety is reduced or eliminated, he or she will be better equipped for daily life tasks.

The short time it often takes for cognitive behavioral therapy to work is another benefit offered. Patients don't have to spend a lot of money and time trying to get to the root of the OCD. This therapy method is action based, and once the patient learns the techniques, he or she can use them at will and not have to pay for months or years of sessions, as is done in talk therapy.


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