Online OCD Therapy: How it Works & Who’s It Right For

Online OCD Therapy

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a persistent mental health condition where individuals experience repetitive and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that often drive them to engage in certain repeated actions or mental rituals (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions can interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress to the individual.

According to The International OCD Foundation, people who received treatment for OCD reported significant benefits post-treatment. Untreated OCD can lead to overwhelming anxiety and stress. Fortunately, treatment is more accessible now than ever, with the availability of online OCD therapy. 

This article delves into the benefits and mechanisms of online OCD therapy, exploring how it can elevate your overall quality of life. 

Impact of OCD Treatment

What is OCD Therapy?

A common treatment for OCD (obsessive–compulsive disorder) is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which emphasizes exposure and response prevention (ERP). Typically, this therapy entails confronting one’s fears and obsessions, along with  patient-therapist collaboration to dissect their problems into these manageable components such as:

  • Thoughts
  • Physical sensations, and
  • Actions.

Therapy for OCD aims to train your brain to understand that neglecting a compulsive thought does not harm, thereby reducing anxiety. Individuals with milder OCD often undergo 8 to 20 therapy sessions, complemented by at-home assignments. However, for those suffering more intensity, therapists might recommend an extended treatment. 

How Does OCD Therapy Work?

Alongside CBT therapy sessions, exercises such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can alleviate anxiety. Intensive daily CBT has proven to be highly effective in treating OCD, exhibiting response rates between 50% to 70%. Below are four frequently employed CBT techniques for treating OCD.

  1. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

This method exposes the patient to their anxiety-triggering obsessive thought while helping them manage their compulsive behavior. By doing so, patients confront their anxiety directly, without short-lived relief from their compulsions. Over time, this continuous exposure reduces their anxiety, desensitizing them to their triggers. ERP has further four elements:

  • In vivo exposure: This involves repeated introduction of an individual to a triggering stimulus for an extended duration.
  • Imaginal exposure: The process entails mentally picturing a feared stimulus and thinking about its outcomes.
  • Ritual or response prevention: This component emphasizes avoiding the compulsive behavior once exposed to the feared stimulus.
  • Processing: This is a discussion-oriented stage about the patient’s reactions during or after the exposure and response prevention, and comparing these reactions to their initial expectations.

2. Relaxation Exercises

Relaxation exercises, especially deep breathing, are valuable tools for managing OCD. These exercises aim to slow down the breathing and heart rate, promoting calmness. Other relaxation methods, like guided imagery, complement breathing exercises. While deep breathing relaxes the body and mind, guided imagery lets individuals visualize a serene and safe environment, helping to diminish anxiety in challenging situations.

3. Cognitive Restructuring

This technique focuses on identifying and challenging irrational thinking patterns, replacing them with more logical ones. It allows patients to learn to manage their triggers and trains them to address these obsessions by adopting new response strategies. This video gives a detailed overview of the goals of cognitive restructuring: 

Effectiveness of Online OCD Therapy 

A prevalent question is if online mode of treating OCD can match the efficacy of face-to-face sessions. And the answer is:  Yes!  As observed in a study, online treatment for OCD resulted in an average decrease in symptoms by 43.4%. This is because online therapy for OCD utilizes similar evidence-based methods, which have been clinically validated to effectively address OCD. 

Here are some features of online OCD therapy that make it highly effective:

  • Online Support Groups

Online therapy platforms offer support groups and resources to aid your treatment for OCD. These communities create a secure environment to discuss your experiences with people who can relate to you. While they aren’t replacements for professional treatment, these support groups can effectively complement your therapeutic journey.

  • More Inclusivity

Opting for online therapy for OCD provides enhanced inclusivity for those with any physical limitations or those who find long commutes challenging. It empowers individuals to seek therapy from the comfort of their homes.

  • Variety of Treatments

You also get access to a variety of techniques that can help you manage OCD. While CBT is the most commonly used approach, some therapists offer other types of treatment modalities such as mindfulness-based therapy.

  • Flexible Scheduling

With online OCD therapy, you can consult a licensed therapist whenever you need. While traditional sessions typically last an hour weekly, online therapy lets you schedule multiple sessions in a week and reach out to your therapist any time, often around the clock.

Deciding When to Start Therapy for OCD

The diagnostic interview data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication showed varying degrees of OCD symptoms among participants. This highlights the prevalence of OCD and expresses the significance of recognizing signs that might indicate the need for therapy. 

Deciding When to Start Therapy for OCD

Here are a few indicators to look out for:

  1. Constant Distress 

You might find yourself having unwanted thoughts or partaking in compulsive actions against your wishes. While carrying out these compulsions may offer temporary relief, especially if you’ve felt anxious, this is a temporary phase before obsessive thoughts and behaviors take over. 

  1. Time-Consuming Compulsions

This refers to both the time invested in actual compulsive actions and the handling of invasive thoughts. Here are a few indicators, and if you’re dedicating roughly an hour or more daily to these symptoms, it could be an indication that you need assistance.

  • Excessive instances of washing your hands
  • Repeatedly checking things 
  • Obsessive need for things to be symmetrical
  1. Obsessions That Are Disrupting Your Daily Life

OCD manifests unwelcome obsessive thoughts that evoke stress or anxiety. While you may attempt to dismiss them, often the response is a compulsive action or ritual. These intrusive thoughts usually surface when you’re occupied with other thoughts or activities. Some of these include:

  • Thoughts about taboo topics
  • Sexual scenarios
  • A constant fear of contamination by germs

How To Succeed With Online OCD Therapy

Embracing online therapy for OCD is a big step and many factors impact the outcomes. Here are 4 tips to help you make the most of your online OCD therapeutic journey:

  1. Be Responsible with Therapy Homework

Approach your homework tasks patiently, focusing on the benefits it offers. The aim isn’t to rush through but to experience a moderate level of anxiety and remain with it. When working on assignments, stay present and avoid mixing these tasks with other distractions.

  1. Explore Treatment Options

Therapists often employ diverse approaches to treat OCD, including CBT, ERP, and Mindfulness-Based Therapy. Don’t hesitate to ask your therapist about it and choose a model best suited to your preferences and requirements.

  1. Learn About OCD 

The availability of online resources helps deepen your understanding of OCD. Besides therapy, exploring other available tools like programs and reading materials is beneficial. A few of the available resources are:

  1. Have Accountability

Ask your therapist to hold you accountable for your progress. Patients who feel accountable to their therapists tend to remain dedicated to the therapeutic process and are more motivated to maintain positive life changes.

Key Takeaways

  • The goal of OCD therapy is to teach the brain that ignoring compulsive thoughts isn’t harmful. The number of therapy sessions needed varies based on the severity of the individual’s OCD.
  • Besides ERP, relaxation methods such as deep breathing and guided imagery help manage anxiety. Cognitive Restructuring also aids in addressing and altering irrational thoughts, guiding patients toward healthier responses.
  • Online OCD therapy offers added benefits like support groups, flexible scheduling, and easier access for those with physical limitations or travel challenges.
  • There are several signs indicating that you might need help including compulsions, obsessions, and distress.
  • Research treatment choices, use online OCD resources, and stay accountable to your therapist for a successful OCD therapy experience.