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Psychotherapy for OCD

For people suffering from OCD, it can be hard to find help. Being an informed consumer can make all the difference.

It is common for people who think they might have OCD to say, “I’d better see someone,” and go to see a psychotherapist. So far, so good. However, there are different types of therapy for OCD, and evidence suggests that some work better than others. Many people who seek help for obsessions or compulsions with a psychotherapist find that sometimes, after months or years of therapy, their symptoms are still a problem. There can be many possible reasons for this.
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Posted in OCD, Psychotherapy.

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How to Find a Therapist

Finding a therapist can be a confusing task. Where to start? Should you ask your doctor? Look on the internet? Ask a friend? Ask your insurance company?

These are all reasonable ideas on the face of them. However, some strategies may be more practical for you than others. Let’s look at each of the above options.
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Posted in Depression, OCD, Psychotherapy.

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Contamination in OCD

Are you a germophobe? People have phobias of all sorts of things — heights, insects, blood, needles, dogs, you name it. However, people with a fear of germs typically do not have a phobia. Often, this is the contamination subtype of OCD. This will often manifest in tendencies to avoid people, places, or things that are thought to be contaminated. Sometimes the contamination is of a specific disease like HIV or hepatitis, or just general “germs.” Other times the contamination can be more vaguely defined. In its extreme forms, contamination OCD can result in people feeling that their homes are too contaminated to continue living in.

How do you know if your fear of contamination is a big problem, or just a quirk? Here are some tips — you should consider seeking help if:

  • the contamination can spread from one thing to another and then another;
  • attempts to rid yourself or your surroundings of contamination have caused you to be late to work, school, or other engagements;
  • contamination fears have affected your sex life or your romantic relationships;
  • efforts to prevent/contain contamination have significantly lengthened your daily routines;
  • time spent washing, disinfecting, or otherwise cleaning has become excessive, or is thought to be excessive by others.

Posted in OCD.

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OCD research update

This past week saw the annual meeting of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, or ABCT. This is the largest American organization of cognitive-behavioral researchers and therapists. Every year, the latest research is presented on cognitive-behavioral therapies for various types of problems, ranging from anxiety to depression to psychosis. This year one of the important projects discussed was the Brown Longitudinal OCD Study. This research study focused on the long-term changes seen in people with OCD who sought help for their symptoms. The study is one of the largest of its kind.

One of the interesting findings to come from this study are estimates of how many people with OCD have tried various forms of treatment. Continued…

Posted in OCD, Research.

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Mental health parity law

With the recent passage of the federal bailout of the financial industry, a groundbreaking piece of legislation was passed that will significantly affect mental healthcare in the U.S. This bill stipulates that mental health conditions must receive the same insurance coverage as physical health conditions. Thus, treatment for schizophrenia or OCD will not be covered with different annual limits, co-payments, and deductibles than those for, say, arthritis.

This legislation became necessary because health insurance companies in the past 15 years have found it profitable to limit coverage for mental health services, and because existing laws did not prohibit such a practice. Individual states had passed legislation in recent years to prohibit this practice on a statewide basis. Timothy’s law in New York is one example, but other states have passed similar laws, including MassachusettsOklahoma, and California. Continued…

Posted in Depression, NYC psychology news, OCD, Psychotherapy.

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September 11th and Anxiety

For those of us who were living in New York or Washington on September 11th, 2001, and for those of us who were otherwise affected by the events of that day, each anniversary of that date can bring its own difficult memories. It is not uncommon for those who were affected by 9/11 to experience an increase in certain unpleasant symptoms on anniversaries of 9/11/01. These can include troubling memories, dreams or nightmares, anxiety, avoidance of reminders of 9/11, feeling emotionally “numb,” depression, or increased alertness (sometimes described as feeling overly “on guard”). These are symptoms of posttraumatic anxiety. For some people, these symptoms get worse over time, but for others they improve. For many, drug and alcohol use emerge as a way to cope with the symptoms.

The New York City Health Department is sponsoring a program to help people suffering from these symptoms. This program pays for psychotherapy for persons who were affected by 9/11, even if only indirectly. This program is only for current residents of New York City. If you have some of the symptoms described above and have not already sought help, consider this program. While seeking help can sometimes be a hard step to take, it’s never too late to address posttraumatic anxiety.

Posted in NYC psychology news, Psychotherapy.

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Handwashing – how much is too much?

Many people with OCD I have worked with have described compulsively washing their hands. This habit can become excessive, at times resulting in raw and broken skin. There are two ways that handwashing can get out of control: 1) time spent washing, and 2) frequency of washing.

Excessive handwashing may be the single most common observable symptom of OCD, and is probably the behavior most commonly associated with OCD. But how much is too much? Continued…

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CBT becoming more available in the U.K.

Starting in 2006, the British government undertook an initiative to make high quality psychotherapy more widely available for people suffering from depression, anxiety, and related problems. While many different types of psychotherapy were already available, the government chose to make therapies proven to be effective available to as many patients as possible. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one example of a psychotherapy that the British government is attempting to make more widely available.
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Posted in Depression, OCD, Psychotherapy.

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Mindfulness in therapy

An article in the New York Times health section today, entitled “Lotus Therapy,” describes the increasingly prevalent use of mindfulness techniques in psychotherapy over the past ten years. The article describes the state of research on the use of mindfulness meditation as “thin,” and indeed the evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness’ use for anxiety and depression is not as substantial as the evidence for cognitive-behavioral therapy or antidepressant medication. However, the research that has been conducted to this point paints a picture of mindfulness meditation as a useful tool — for those inclined to use it — in fighting depression and anxiety.

A fair consideration of the strength of evidence for mindfulness meditation vs. psychotherapy and pharmacological treatments should keep in mind a few key points:
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Posted in Meditation, NYC psychology news, Psychotherapy.

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Challenges to seeking help

A recent New York Times article highlighted the difficulty many people face in deciding whether or not to seek help for emotional problems. The article describes a recent privately conducted research study that concluded that 19% of the 1.6 million members of the American military who have recently served in Iraq or Afghanistan have symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder or major depression. Of the 19%, however, only slightly more than half have sought help.

There are many reasons that people are reluctant to seeking help for emotional difficulties. One reason is the commonly held belief that one should be able to handle whatever life throws one’s way, and that seeking help is akin to cheating, or to admitting defeat. Many people truly, deeply believe that the problems they are experiencing are their own fault, and thus, it would wrong to seek help. While it may be true that they have contributed to these problems, it is often untrue that seeking help would be a copout. For example, let’s say that you had a close friend who started to drink too much. Let’s say this drinking became a problem in their lives, and affected your friend’s relationships and work. Fortunately, your friend recognized that the drinking had become problematic, but blamed themselves for “letting things get to this point” and insisted that cutting back on drinking was the only answer to their problems – “simple as that.” Wouldn’t you want your friend to at least try to seek help, even if they ultimately decided that it wasn’t for them?
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Posted in Psychotherapy.

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