Possible New Treatment for OCD “Checkers”

New Therapy for OCD In Field Testing

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 11, 2012

New Therapy for OCD In Field Testing Individuals who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are often plagued by incessant self-talk that leads to compulsive checking.

Although the thoughts may be slight — such as checking to be sure the gas stove is turned off — individuals can become debilitated as they become locked in a vicious cycle of fear and doubt.

Canadian researchers at Concordia University are now testing a novel approach to treatment for compulsive checking that they believe could mean vast improvements in the quality of life of countless individuals.

“For years, the best way to treat compulsive checking in OCD sufferers has been through a difficult therapeutic process known as exposure and response prevention, or ERP,” said Dr. Adam Radomsky, a professor in the Department of Psychology.

“By facing their worst fears repeatedly until their anxiety declines, patients learn to diffuse their hypervigilant checking responses — in theory.” In practice, however, this type of treatment often results in patients quickly discontinuing the therapy.

“Refusal rates for ERP are unacceptably high, which is why we need to develop a new and refined treatment that specifically works for compulsive checking.”

The new treatment intervention builds on previous research which found that individuals with OCD who compulsively checked certain aspects of their surroundings did so because of an inflated sense of perceived responsibility.

“If I don’t turn off the stove, the house will burn down,” is a plausible thought that can quickly devolve into an obsessive cycle of checking and re-checking, and can even result in an inability to leave the house. Yet, as shown by Radomsky’s previous research, performing these seemingly senseless repetitions actually results in a loss of confidence.

Radomsky believes that modifying the patient’s inflated feelings of personal responsibility and reducing predictions of seriousness of anticipated misfortunes, can turn the cycle around.

By placing the emphasis on how people think rather than on what they do, the intervention targets people’s faulty beliefs about how responsible they think they are, about their own memories, and about the dangers that they perceive.

Treatment milestones include normalizing inflated responsibility — through restoring confidence in memory — all the way to reducing self-doubt and guilt. The goal of the intervention is to improve the way in which individuals perceive themselves, and the world around them.

Developed in the lab, Radomsky’s research is set to show real promise in the field.

“For me and my team,” said Radomsky, “this work will capitalize on all of our previous experimental research and lead us to testing a new intervention based on our previous findings. It’s our hope that this work will lead to a more substantial test of the treatment, which in turn could influence how people treat OCD in Montreal, in Canada and beyond.”

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About LISA DOUGLAS

Foremost, I am an OCD awareness, treatment and long-term recovery: advocate, spokesperson, consultant, supporter, and educator. I am the mother and sole provider of care for an amazingly smart, witty, charismatic, 13 year old daughter, Alexandra, who was severely debilitated by OCD. The apex of Alexandra’s journey to simply be like ‘normal’ people is marked by her recent, astonishing ascent from the subterranean bowels of OCD Hell she has inhabited for as long as she can remember, to becoming freed to, once again, walk alongside and among the “land of the living.” Over these past nine years and all the realizations I’ve made regarding the mental health system, its profession and providers, society’s stigmas, discrimination, accusations, insurance debacles and all else involved, I’ve been making belief, someone, someday will help my progressively declining child who’s Y-BOCS consistently remained between 34 and 40 for the past 6 whole years! Until this past April, she and I have been on an endless quest for proper treatment which would help to alleviate and, ultimately, release her from the incomprehensibly horrific, all-consuming, self-harming, isolated purgatory from which she was ever-increasingly, perpetually trapped by her obsessions and rituals. Earlier this year, our seemingly last hope for help was to be an extended stay at Rogers Memorial but after months of fighting with her 2 insurance companies over denying coverage for admittance, I was at my wits end, again! Having immersed myself into the global OCD community for many years seeking help, advice, guidance, etc., I came across a post seeking beta study participants using an app for ERP. Immediately, I applied for my daughter. The director/doctor was very hesitant as Alex’s OCD was so extreme. However, with a lot of persuasion, a remarkably wise and kind doctor, as well as, an enormous ‘leap of faith,’ we began using the app from LiveOCDFree. She has been diligently working with the Live OCD Free app for the past 3 months. During this short time, with much hard work and determination, she has achieved remarkable progress against her, previously omnipresent, OCD symptoms! Her OCD had forced her into seclusion, isolation, and painful 4+ hour ritualistic decontamination showers and had even left her unable to touch or breathe the air of those she loves. Remarkably, Alexandra can now walk anywhere and touch almost everything freely. She can hug and spend time with loved-ones and friends without decontaminating. Ali’s showers are now only 25-minutes and do not involve any painful rituals. She continues to work to conquer her remaining OCD issues and anticipates, in time, a full recovery from the OCD which has plagued her since the age of four. Alexandra, and I, want nothing more than to lead a revolution against this insidious, debilitating monster we call OCD! To help others see how much hope there is with proper treatment, she and I are documenting her OCD recovery process and history through Facebook.com/ LiveOCDFree, Twitter: LiveOCDFree, YouTube.com/LiveOCDFree, OCDKids.wordpress.com and LiveOCDFree.com. Please, join and /or follow her journey so you can be aware of OCD, too. View all posts by LISA DOUGLAS

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