Frequently asked questions about OCD

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If I have OCD, will my descendants also have OCD?

No. Although genetic factors are involved in the disorder, if you have OCD it does not necessarily mean that your descendants will develop the condition.

Does everyone with OCD have the same symptoms?

No. There are different types of symptoms. Some people with OCD may always have the same symptoms for long periods. For other people their symptoms may change over time or they may have different OCD symptoms at different times in their lives.

If I need help, where should I start looking?

Most people with OCD should initially receive psychological treatment in the form of exposure and response prevention (ERP), but this treatment is not always available in our healthcare setting (either because few professionals have been trained to provide ERP or because there is a waiting list). Therefore, patients are often prescribed drug therapy as their initial treatment. Some people improve with drug therapy, but for others it is necessary to assess the possibility of providing psychological treatment or other options.

Is drug therapy always required?

No, as long as the person with OCD is willing to dedicate time and effort to the psychological treatment and there is an experienced professional available to help them. However, it can be hard to find an experienced professional.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of psychological treatment?

Psychological treatment helps the patient learn to overcome their fear or anxiety and for most people it is a difficult, yet ultimately satisfactory, experience. In order for exposure and response prevention therapy to function correctly, the patient must practise certain tasks every day over a period of weeks or months. The psychological treatment does not usually work without this daily practice. Therefore, patients must understand that the most important thing is not visiting the professional, but regularly practising the exercises while following their indications.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of drug therapy?

Drug therapy is simpler and requires less effort than psychological treatment, as patients just have to take a tablet every day and do not need to practise any tasks. It takes some time (weeks) before the medicines used to treat OCD start working and they can produce some undesired side effects (which vary depending on each drug), but they do not lead to addiction.

What can I expect from treatment for OCD? How long does it last?

Most people with OCD who receive treatment show an improvement. Some improve significantly, to the point where they are considered to be “cured”, although in the context of OCD, being “cured” does not mean they will never experience any more symptoms. Other patients experience a partial improvement.

Both psychological treatment and drug therapy initially last for a few months, after which the patient will be assessed for any improvement. If they are not getting better, the treatment can be altered (e.g., the drug may be changed or the dosage increased, or the frequency of psychological treatment increased, etc.).

Are there other treatments for OCD?

Yes. In cases where the disorder is very limiting and several treatments have been tried but without success, there is still the option of surgical treatment, that is, operating on the brain.

Substantiated information by:

Luisa Lázaro García
Miquel Àngel Fullana Rivas

Published: 7 February 2019
Updated: 7 February 2019

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