People with OCD have intrusive, undesired thoughts, worries, or superstitions so excessive that they cause significant life distress or disruption. Common obsessions include imagining having harmed other people, having intrusive, unwanted sexual thoughts, and fears of contamination. Others may fear losing control or succumbing to violent urges, have excessive religious or moral doubts, fear forbidden thoughts, or may have a need to have things “just so.” People with OCD may spend hours each day performing behavioral or mental rituals to temporarily quell their anxiety. Most people with OCD recognize that their fears are irrational, yet still feel unable to resist the obsessions and compulsions.
Exposure and Response Prevention (EX/RP) is a behavioral method that is very effective for treating a number of Anxiety Spectrum Disorders including OCD, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorders.
EX/RP involves exposure to both imagined or real feared stimuli and response prevention (i.e., stopping escape or avoidance behaviors).
The goal of EX/RP is habituation to anxiety provoking stimuli and extinction of maladaptive responses. The responses may be cognitive, emotional and/or overt behavior. Habituation and extinction refer to the behavioral processes that allow people to become used to anxiety provoking thoughts or experiences without experiencing discomfort.