Is OCD Curable?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an often-misunderstood mental health concern. Common questions about this disorder include “How many people have OCD?”, “What causes OCD?”, and “Is OCD curable?”
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported the following statistics about OCD in the United States:
- Experts estimate that the lifetime prevalence of OCD among adults ages 18 and above is 2.3%.
- The past-year prevalence of OCD among adults is about 1.2%. With the current U.S. adult population at about 258 million, this means that about 3.1 million adults had OCD symptoms in the previous 12 months.
- The past-year prevalence of OCD is more than three times higher among women (1.8%) than among men (0.5%).
- About 50% of adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder had a serious impairment as scored on the Sheehan Disability Scale.
Stanford Medicine has also provided the following OCD statistics:
- The typical ages of onset of OCD symptoms are 17-21 for men and 19-24 for women.
- Two-thirds of people who develop OCD experience symptoms before age 25.
- About 37% of people with OCD have one co-occurring mental health disorder. About 38% have two or more co-occurring mental health conditions.
- Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most common co-occurring mental health concern among people with OCD. About 31% of people with OCD also have MDD.
How Does OCD Affect the Brain?
To determine if OCD is curable, it is first necessary to understand the cause or causes of this disorder. Unfortunately, experts have not yet determined exactly how the brain is impacted by OCD. However, multiple research efforts have identified several possibilities.
For example, in an article in the Fall 2008 edition of Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, a research team that was led by Dr. Edwin Huey noted that abnormalities in the following areas of the brain may increase a person’s risk for developing OCD:
- Orbitofrontal cortex
- Anterior cingulate cortex
- Prefrontal cortex
- Basal ganglia
The authors of the 2008 article theorized that these brain areas are involved in storing memories of behavior sequences that are known as structured event complexes (SECs). Deficits in how SECs are stored and processed could, the researchers wrote, be a source of considerable anxiety that can, in turn, lead to the development of both obsessions and compulsions.
“[Our model] hypothesizes that a deficit in the relief of anxiety that usually accompanies the completion of an SEC is responsible for the symptoms of OCD,” they wrote. “Specifically, this anxiety forms the basis of an obsession, and a compulsion is an attempt to receive relief from the anxiety by repeating parts of, or an entire, SEC.”
Is OCD Curable?
When a person is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is common for them to want to know, is OCD curable?
OCD is a chronic mental health condition. This means that, in the vast majority of cases, the goal of treatment isn’t to cure this disorder. Instead, effective treatment for OCD is designed to help people manage their symptoms so that they can achieve improved health and a more satisfying quality of life.
As we will discuss in the next section, this effort often involves prescription medications and several forms of therapy.
The medication component of OCD treatment typically includes antidepressants such as Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac. Additionally, these medications can ease the distress that is associated with the obsessions and compulsions that are characteristic of OCD.
The therapeutic part of OCD treatment is designed to help people take greater control of their thoughts and actions. During therapy, people can develop skills and strategies for responding to obsessions or compulsions in a healthier manner, without allowing these urges to undermine their ability to function.
How is OCD Typically Treated?
To be most effective, treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder should be a personalized experience that reflects and addresses the full scope of an individual’s needs. Since so many people who have OCD also have depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns, a comprehensive treatment plan must also take these co-occurring conditions into consideration.
After fully assessing the nature and severity of a person’s struggles with OCD, their treatment team may recommend inpatient treatment and/or outpatient care:
- Inpatient: Inpatient programming may be the optimal choice for people whose lives have been significantly disrupted by OCD symptoms. At this level, patients live at the facility where they are receiving treatment. Inpatient mental health care is typically a short-term experience, with the goal of helping the patient achieve the level of stabilization that will allow them to return home or step down to an outpatient program.
- Outpatient: Outpatient program options for OCD may include a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (IOP). At these levels, patients only need to be at the center when treatment is in session. PHPs typically offer full days of care, five days per week. IOPs usually offer partial treatment days, two to four days per week. Some people enter treatment at the PHP or IOP level. However, many people transfer to an outpatient program after completing inpatient treatment.
Depending on which level of care a person is in, their treatment for OCD and co-occurring concerns may involve mental health therapies such as the following:
- Prescription medication
- Individual, group, and family therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Recreation therapy
- Holistic therapies
Contact Montare About Treating OCD Today
Untreated OCD can have a profound negative impact on virtually every part of your life. However, when you receive proper care from a trusted provider such as Montare Behavioral Health, you can make significant progress toward a brighter future. At convenient locations throughout southern California, our OCD treatment centers offer personalized care and comprehensive support within safe and welcoming environments. For more about our programs and services, or to schedule a free OCD assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.