Should I See a Psychiatrist for My OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a crippling mental health disorder that can be extremely difficult to manage. For those unfamiliar with the condition, OCD is a complex mental health disorder, and not every therapist is equipped to effectively treat OCD in patients. Contrary to popular belief, the expertise of LMHCs (Licensed Mental Health Counsellors), social workers, psychologists, and even psychiatrists varies widely among these professionals. OCD is a specialized field of study, and the professionals treating OCD should have a thorough understanding of your specific situation before initiating obsessive compulsive disorder treatment.

Among those in the know, OCD treatments that work best include ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention). This typically falls under the broad umbrella of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Among psychiatrists, the accepted treatment regimen typically includes a multi-pronged approach such as therapeutics and counselling. The medications of choice include Prozac and Paxil – two highly effective SSRIs. These serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been proven to reduce and manage the symptoms of OCD effectively. Although, it must be said that there are known side-effects with SSRIs and SNRIs, including fatigue, sexual dysfunction, drowsiness, headaches, diarrhea, nervousness, insomnia, and even bleeding. By far, the most effective treatment regimen is ERP.

Effective Ways to Assess the Qualifications of Therapists

In the United States, professional health care providers must be fully licensed to operate within a state or province. Whenever treatment is being sought, it’s imperative that the patient actively engages the clinician as to the nature of the treatment to be meted out. The most effective treatment option is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Other options that may be recommended by a psychiatrist such as Psychoanalytic, Psychodynamic, or Rogerian should be avoided. In this vein, it is not necessary to seek out the services of a psychiatrist, since licensed mental health counselors and psychologists are equally adept at providing CBT. Upon further investigation, the mental health professional should be able to elucidate precisely what the CBT options entail. Patients should actively learn to face their fears over time. 

OCD is a combination of obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions designed to eliminate those thoughts. For example, a patient struggling with OCD would have invasive and perpetual thoughts crowding out all of thought processes. To remedy the situation, the patient undertakes specific actions such as cleaning, checking, repeating et cetera. While the actions are supposed to ameliorate the pervasive thoughts, they only feed the vicious cycle in an endless loop. With CBT treatment, a big part of the process is the prevention of responses – the compulsions that patients undertake. Formal training is preferred in the treatment of OCD over fringe techniques such as thought stopping, relaxation, even hypnosis. Among the experts, there is broad consensus that the most effective treatment regimens for CBT can take many years of training to perfect.

What Other Treatments Can Psychiatrists Administer for OCD?

While medication and therapy are often prescribed as effective treatment regimens for OCD, they may not always be enough. In the event that a patient is not responding to these traditional treatments, alternatives may be available in the form of FDA-approved TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). This breakthrough technology has actually been around since the 1980s, but has only been popularized in recent years. The use of electromagnetic fields can painlessly regulate neural activity by targeting areas deep within the brain thought to be responsible for this disorder. It is true that psychiatrists can administer TMS  treatment to patients, but other medical professionals are equally qualified to provide this treatment. These include clinical psychologists, nurse practitioners, PAs, and physicians. For the most part, insurance companies determine which medical professional is able to administer TMS treatments. In the United States,TMS is an approved treatment for OCD and MDD.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three steps involved in diagnosing OCD, notably:

  • A Physical Exam to rule out the possibility of other conditions causing symptoms of OCD.
  • DSM-5 criteria for OCD include the likes of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders published recommendations and guidelines.
  • A Psychological Assessment is a useful way to ascertain relevant information pertaining to your OCD, including compulsions, obsessions, and behaviors.

Once again, it’s worth pointing out that psychiatrists are not the only licensed mental health professionals who can perform these tests. Nor are they the only professionals who can carry out these treatment options. The obsessive thoughts which characterize OCD emanate from distressed and repetitive thought processes. The main focal points of obsessive thoughts include specific rituals, organization, worrying about impending disaster, and fear of germs. 

The compulsive behaviors are the rituals that patients go through to try and suppress these thoughts. Examples include cleaning, hand washing, disinfecting, checking and rechecking, et cetera. According to DSM5, some 1.2% of the US population suffers from OCD, with females at slightly higher risk than males. Among the experts, the consensus regarding OCD causes tends to be rooted in genetics and environmental elements. A large number of OCD sufferers are also in the throes of depression or other anxiety disorders too.