The Anxiety and Agoraphobia Treatment Center
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112 Bala Avenue
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


Obsessive compulsive disorder (also called OCD) is characterized by recurrent, persistent, and intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses (obsessions), which increase anxiety and discomfort, and repetitive, purposeful behaviors or thoughts intended to prevent or reduce anxiety and discomfort (compulsions). Those with OCD may believe that the compulsions (also called rituals) will prevent obsessive thoughts or make them go away, but compulsions provide only temporary and short-lived anxiety reduction. Anxiety and discomfort return often with increased intensity once the obsession reoccurs. This results in a vicious cycle of obsessions and compulsions, which causes escalating anxiety.

Obsessions and compulsions can vary greatly from person to person.  Some typical symptoms can include contamination fears, repetitive and unwanted thoughts or images or impulses, perfectionism, and fear of harming oneself or others. Typical rituals can include washing compulsions, repeated checking, and mental rituals to avoid thoughts or to provide reassurance.

While people with OCD may be aware that their obsessions and compulsions are senseless or unrealistic, they often feel that they cannot stop them.   OCD frequently causes significant emotional distress, and may greatly interfere with academic and professional functioning, as well as interpersonal relationships.

Treatment for OCD:

AATC offers the first-line, scientifically-based treatment for OCD—Exposure and Response Prevention (also called E/RP).  E/RP is a specialized form of Cognitive Behavioral therapy.  Through gradual exposure, clients learn to confront feared thoughts, images, objects and situations that make them anxious.  Response prevention teaches clients to resist performing compulsive rituals.

The natural drop in anxiety that happens when you stay “exposed” and “prevent” the “response” is called habituation.  By doing this, the person “retrains their brain” to extinguish the fear.  Once treatment goals are achieved, maintenance and relapse prevention training is an important part of the individually tailored treatment plan for each client.  

The OCD treatment program for children and adolescents is tailored to include parents and, with permission, schools.

An Important Note:  Some people get very stressed about the prospect of completing E/RP.   This is most common prior to starting treatment and quickly fades once the individual begins practicing regular exposure.  If you feel this way, keep in mind that our therapists work collaboratively with clients to develop treatment goals and work at a pace that is agreeable to the client.

Free Support Group: Click on links on home page for further information about the OCD support group and group dates.