Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Helpful Treatments


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by recurrent intrusive thoughts or images (i.e. obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviours (i.e. compulsions)  that are experienced as excessive and/or inappropriate, and cause distress.  The obsessions and/or compulsions usually take up significant time in an individual’s day (e.g. > 1 hour) or cause impairment in functioning.

Often individuals recognize that the obsessions and/or compulsions are unreasonable however some individuals feel “unsure” whether what they are thinking/doing is excessive.

Common examples of obsessions include doubts (e.g. did I lock the door? what if I don’t really love my spouse?), fears about contamination (e.g. what if I have germs on my hand that will lead to a disease?), thoughts of harming oneself or others, and inappropriate sexual or religious thoughts. Common OCD compulsions include excessive checking, washing, cleaning, reassurance-seeking, ordering or arranging, or counting.

Effective Therapies for OCD

One of the most studied CBT techniques employed in treating OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP).  ERP involves exposure to OCD triggers/thoughts, and the simultaneous prevention of compulsions or “safety behaviours” that are normally performed to neutralize anxiety.  ERP has been examined in numerous controlled studies and has been shown to be the most effective CBT treatment for OCD symptoms.

For more information and helpful resources visit the OCD Canada website:


Listen to this interview with  author David Adam about his new book The Man Who Couldn’t Stop and his personal experience with CBT: