OCD treatment from an online psychiatrist

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What is OCD?

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is a common and chronic mental health condition that causes repeated, unwanted, intrusive thoughts and compulsions. The symptoms of OCD can be debilitating, causing major disruptions to your daily life. If you’re suffering from OCD, or think you might be, you may feel embarrassed, or like you have to hide your symptoms from others. It’s important to remember that OCD isn’t your fault. It’s a medical condition, and treatment options exist to help you feel better.

A clinical diagnosis from a qualified mental healthcare professional is key to accessing the treatments necessary to manage your condition. Options like medication and talk therapy can make a major difference in your symptoms and overall quality of life.  

People with OCD suffer from a pattern of “obsessions” (intrusive, unwanted thoughts) and/or “compulsions” (repetitive behaviors to help quiet or drive out the thoughts). A person with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or a combination of both. These symptoms interfere with almost all aspects of life, like school, work, and relationships.

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What are the symptoms of OCD?

Obsessions are recurrent, intrusive thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause a person with OCD significant anxiety. They may include:
  • Fear of being contaminated with germs or dirt, or infecting others
  • Disturbing and unwanted sexual thoughts or images
  • Unwanted or forbidden religious thoughts
  • Unwanted aggressive thoughts towards yourself or others
  • The need to have things in a particular order
Compulsions are repetitive actions that a person with OCD undertakes to temporarily reduce the anxiety caused by their obsessive thoughts. A person with OCD typically feels great distress when they can’t complete their compulsions, and may enact them for an excessively long time. Some examples of compulsions include:
  • Excessive or ritualized hand-washing and/or cleaning
  • Excessive double-checking of locks, switches, and/or appliances
  • Repeatedly checking on loved ones to make sure they are safe
  • Excessively counting, tapping, or repeating certain words
OCD, like many mental health conditions, may have mild, moderate, severe, or extreme symptoms. This generally refers to how much of your day is spent on intrusive thoughts or behaviors. For example, someone with mild OCD symptoms may experience an hour a day of disruptive thoughts or behaviors, while someone with extreme OCD may experience over 8 hours a day of these symptoms.

Sometimes people with OCD will also have Tourette’s syndrome or another tic disorder. A tic is a sudden movement, twitch, or sound that a person repeats. People with tics can’t stop their body from doing them.  
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How can you know if you have OCD?

You may have heard the term OCD used very casually, like to describe someone who’s especially particular or a “germaphobe.” It’s true that many of us experience OCD-like symptoms occasionally, including having unwanted thoughts or engaging in soothing behaviors. However, a clinically diagnosed case of OCD is much more severe and complex.

Your symptoms might be considered OCD if you:  
  • Spend an hour or more a day on obsessive thoughts or behaviors
  • Can’t control your thoughts, even if you know they are excessive
  • Experience extreme distress at the thought of stopping your compulsive behaviors
  • Don’t feel any pleasure performing compulsions, merely a temporary relief from anxiety
  • Can’t engage in a normal routine because your obsessions and/or compulsions get in the way
  • Avoiding situations that trigger obsessions, even if it causes a significant disruption to your daily life
Only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose OCD. If you think you or a loved one might have it, the first step is getting a proper diagnosis. There are many treatment options which can make a major difference in your symptoms.
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What causes OCD?

Researchers are still trying to identify the exact causes of OCD. There is evidence that genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental factors may all play a part. Adults, children, men, women, and people of all different races and backgrounds are equally affected by OCD.
Risk factors for OCD include:
  • Having a family member with OCD, especially if that person developed OCD as a child or adolescent
  • Having other mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, Tourette’s syndrome, depression, substance abuse or related disorders
  • A history of childhood trauma
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How is OCD treated at Talkiatry?

The first step to treating OCD is getting a clinical diagnosis from a qualified mental healthcare professional, like a psychiatrist. With Talkiatry, you can see a psychiatrist from the comfort of your couch and you can schedule your first appointment in a matter of days.

Here’s what to expect in your first visit:

Evaluation: During your first visit with a Talkiatry psychiatrist, you’ll get to meet each other and answer questions about your current symptoms, personal history, medical history, and mental health goals.

Diagnosis: Based on the information you’ve shared, your psychiatrist will be able to provide a diagnosis of your condition, if you have one. Getting a diagnosis can feel scary, but it can also feel validating to finally put a name to what you've been experiencing. Your psychiatrist will help you navigate any emotions that come up and work with you on a path to move forward.

Treatment plan: You’ll collaborate with your psychiatrist on the best way to manage your symptoms. If medication is appropriate, you’ll discuss your options, including the benefits and potential side effects of each medication. Your psychiatrist will provide supportive therapy throughout your session, and may also recommend working with one of our therapists. Our therapists partner with our psychiatrists in a collaborative model to provide holistic care.

To get started, take our free online assessment, to see if Talkiatry is right for you and get matched with a psychiatrist.  
Medication management
Depending on your symptoms and needs, your psychiatrist may recommend medication as part of your OCD treatment plan. SRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) which include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most common type of prescription medication used to reduce OCD symptoms.

SSRIs are a type of antidepressant that work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that’s thought to help influence mood, emotion, and sleep. While SSRIs are typically prescribed to treat depression, they can also successfully treat OCD.

Someone with OCD generally needs a different dose of an SSRI than someone with depression, and it may take 6-12 weeks to see maximum benefit. If you don’t respond to one SSRI, it’s possible you may respond to another, which is why your psychiatrist will work closely with you to make sure you’re getting the maximum benefit from your medication.  
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Your psychiatrist may recommend therapeutic methods in combination with medication to manage your OCD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic technique that has been shown to help with OCD, particularly in managing anxiety and developing healthy coping mechanisms.
Exposure and response prevention (ERP)
One type of CBT that’s an especially effective treatment for OCD is called ERP (exposure and response prevention, or EX/RP). This therapy gradually exposes you to situations that trigger compulsions—in a safe environment. By spending time in these situations while not engaging in compulsive behavior, you’ll learn to cope with your anxieties in a healthy way. While this type of therapy can seem frightening at first, it’s considered a “first-line” treatment, meaning that alongside medication, it’s one of the most effective options in the treatment of OCD.
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How to get started

If you have or think you might have OCD, Talkiatry can help. Here’s how to get started:

In patients with OCD, a treatment plan at Talkiatry may look like this:  
Tip #2
If Talkiatry is a fit for your needs, complete your first visit.
Expect to hear a bit about your clinician's background, and then to share exactly what brought you in. You may be asked about your medical history, day-to-day life, and goals and expectations for treatment. If you’re nervous about a particular element of treatment—say, taking a particular medication for OCD—we want to hear about that, too. Your Talkiatry clinician knows that the best treatment plan is the one you’ll stick to, so they’ll work with you to come up with a strategy that you’re both comfortable with.
Tip #3
Receive your diagnosis and personalized treatment plan, which may include a combination of OCD medication, supportive therapy, and CBT or ERP with a therapist.
Tip #4
Continuous care will include adjusting your OCD treatment plan as needed.
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About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 100 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with a range of mental health conditions, including OCD. Get started with a short online assessment.

The information in this article is for educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.
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