CBT for OCD: How It Works

CBT for OCD: How It Works

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a complex and long-term mental health condition. In fact, for a long time, OCD was considered resistant to treatment. 

However, with advancements in therapeutic techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is helping many people with OCD get relief from their symptoms within weeks.

At Reviv Functional Medicine & TMS Wellness Center in Fullerton, California, our highly skilled and compassionate psychiatrist, Dr. Hina Sidhu, takes a comprehensive and patient-centered approach to treating OCD. 

In addition to medication and lifestyle changes, Dr. Sidhu recommends CBT for OCD. Here, we want to explain how it all works.

About OCD

OCD is a serious mental health condition that takes over your life. People with OCD have obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, or both. 

Obsessive thoughts

Obsessive thoughts are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger overwhelming anxiety. For example, fear you forgot to shut off the stove, forbidden thoughts about sex, or an overpowering need for items to be in a specific order.

Though many people may have similar thoughts or needs, with OCD, the thoughts are overwhelming, intrusive, and impossible to ignore.

Compulsive behaviors

Compulsive behaviors are rituals or activities a person with OCD has an intense urge to engage in, often as a way to relieve the anxiety brought on by the obsessive thought.

This might involve checking and rechecking to ensure the stove is off, compulsive counting to remove unwanted thoughts or images, or constantly arranging or rearranging until everything is in order.

The thoughts and behaviors are uncontrollable and consume hours of time, making it challenging to go about a normal routine.


CBT is a form of therapy that helps identify and change unhealthy thoughts and behaviors to improve mental wellness. It’s used to treat many mental health conditions, including depressionanxiety disorders, and OCD. 

There are many forms of CBT, and for OCD, we may use:

Exposure and ritual prevention (ERP) therapy

ERP aims to break the bond between the anxiety brought on by obsessive thoughts and the ritualistic behavior used to ease the anxiety temporarily. During therapy, we expose you to distressing thoughts without letting you engage in the behavior. 

Interference-based CBT (I-CBT)

I-CBT helps you find the connection between your unwanted thoughts and the faulty reasoning that causes them to recur. Therapy teaches you how to change faulty reasoning, creating a more logical narrative and helping relieve the distress surrounding the thought.

How it works

CBT for OCD works by helping you better understand the source of your obsessive thoughts, why they make you anxious, and how to change them. It gives you an opportunity to experience your obsessions and the anxiety that comes with it without the ritualistic behaviors. 

Therapy gives you the support and safety to face and survive your fears. Most importantly, it teaches you how to cope with anxiety without rituals, giving you back your life. 

Though results vary, many people feel relief from their OCD symptoms within 12 weeks after starting their weekly sessions. 

You must be willing to continue the strategies you learn during therapy at home to quickly gain the benefits. 

You can get control over your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Let us help you get your life back. Call our office today or book an appointment online to learn more. 

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