Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

What is OCD?

Dr. Patrick McGrath

By Patrick B.McGrath, PhD

Chief Clinical Officer at NOCD

Every day I'm overwhelmed by thoughts, images, and urges that I don't want to have. Since they're usually about things that are very meaningful, I've started doing actions to make them stop, including avoiding certain places and situations. Yet, they're not stopping and I think I'm getting worse. What should I do?

A person sits with their tablet and we see that they are thinking "Am I really going to hurt someone?" and "Can I trust myself?"

What is OCD?

OCD stands for

OCD is a highly treatable condition that affects approximately 1 out of 40 people worldwide, but it remains widely misunderstood.

People with OCD experience repetitive and intrusive thoughts, images, urges, or feelings, called obsessions. These obsessions are ego dystonic, meaning that they do not align with a person's actual values or desires.

People without OCD may experience similar intrusive thoughts and dismiss them as insignificant and unrelated to their core desires and identity. For people with OCD, however, these thoughts feel significant, causing distress and anxiety. As a result, they perform compulsions, which are mental or physical actions done to relieve distress.

Compulsions may provide short-term relief from anxiety and distress, but they keep people with OCD trapped in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Compulsions can occupy several hours every day and cause years of debilitating anxiety, lifestyle changes, health risks, and missed opportunities.

Break the OCD cycle

Break the OCD cycle of obsession, distress, compulsion, and temporary relief.

Treatment options

Exposure and response prevention (ERP)

ERP is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that was developed specifically to treat OCD and is backed by decades of clinical research.

ERP works by carefully exposing people to situations that trigger their obsessions, then helping them resist the urge to engage in compulsions as a result. In time, this process teaches them to sit with the discomfort and anxiety that comes from obsessions, without resorting to compulsions that may provide short-term relief, but perpetuate the OCD cycle and make it worse over time.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

ACT may also be effectively paired with ERP to treat OCD. ACT can help people with OCD develop psychological flexibility, or the ability to enter and respond to potentially stressful situations, that can help them in the OCD recovery process.


SSRI antidepressants are the most common medications used in OCD treatment, most often in combination with ERP therapy. For individuals with severe symptoms or certain comorbid conditions, medication may allow them to respond more effectively to ERP therapy.


How is OCD treated?

Without treatment, OCD can take over someone's life for years. But decades of clinical research have shown that OCD is a highly treatable condition, and that successful outcomes can be achieved relatively quickly.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from OCD, it’s important to learn about the most effective treatment options so you can get back to living the life you want as soon as possible.

Common OCD Subtypes

Although all forms of OCD have symptoms in common, the way these symptoms present themselves in daily life can differ from person to person. OCD often fixates on specific themes, or subtypes, like contamination, harm, checking, or perfectionism. People with OCD can experience more than one subtype, and their subtypes can change over time.

OCD subtypes can allow people to find community with others who share similar experiences, and they can help therapists design treatment plans, but they don't tell the whole story. Everyone's OCD experience is unique—if you can't find your subtype, that doesn't mean you don't have OCD.


Select a category to learn more about it

OCD Stats & Science

Nearly everyone has heard of OCD, but few truly understand what it is: a potentially debilitating mental illness that consumes people with fear and doubt, often about the things that matter the most to them. Instead, OCD is frequently portrayed as nothing more than a personality quirk in popular media, causing millions to suffer in silence, unaware that their struggle has a name.

Related Symptoms & Conditions

Mental health is always complex, and OCD is no exception. Obsessions and compulsions present differently in everybody, and it can be difficult to make sense of new and changing symptoms. Through life changes and sources of stress, it’s important to be prepared for anything OCD sends your way.