Treatments for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder | MedStar Health

What are the treatments?

The symptoms of OCD can often be effectively managed with medication, therapy, or a combination of both. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to addressing symptoms before they become life changing, or even debilitating. Treating the symptoms of OCD may also alleviate symptoms of co-occurring conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and substance use.

Coping with OCD can be difficult, but remember that recovery from OCD is an ongoing process. With treatment, many people are able to resume regular activities, like work and school. If you are able, spending time with family and friends, hobbies, and recreational activities can be beneficial during recovery. Stress management techniques, such as meditation, visualization, muscle relaxation, massage, deep breathing, and yoga may help ease stress and anxiety.

It’s important to seek treatment. Without it, the symptoms of OCD can worsen over time and other problems may arise, including physical health problems, troubled relationships, inability to attend work, school, or social activities, overall poor quality of life, or suicidal thoughts and behaviors.


Exposure therapy is often an effective treatment option. It involves gradually exposing patients to a feared object or obsession and having the patient develop healthy ways to cope with distress and anxiety. Through the exposure, patients learn how to cope with their obsessions without performing rituals. After learning their obsessions can be lessened without ritualistic behaviors, patients are able to eventually stop the time-consuming compulsions.


Certain medications, such as anti-depressants, may help manage OCD symptoms. Specifically, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been found to reduce or control symptoms. In general, the goal is to manage symptoms with the lowest possible dosage. It’s not unusual to try several drugs before finding one that works best. Noticeable benefits can take several weeks to occur.

It’s important to discuss the possible risks and side effects of any medication with your doctor. Some anti-depressants can be dangerous when combined with certain medications or supplements, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any other prescriptions, over-the counter medications, herbs, or supplements you may be taking. Don’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first, even if you’re feeling better. Abruptly stopping your medication may cause a relapse of OCD symptoms, or other negative side effects. If you have concerns about your medication, work with your doctor to gradually and safely decrease your dose.

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