What treatment should you ask for?

The treatment found to be the most effective in successfully treating OCD is a talking therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) including Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). In many cases, CBT/ERP alone is highly effective in treating OCD, but for some people a combination of CBT and medication is also effective. 

Some people may be apprehensive about taking medication, but the medication may reduce the anxiety enough for a person to start, and eventually succeed in therapy. However, the choice to take medication must remain your choice and ultimately, it is CBT that OCD-UK recommend as the primary treatment you should be seeking, and expecting to be offered by your GP.

Before any kind of treatment for OCD can commence you should always consult your GP. Many GPs still have little or no knowledge of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, although thankfully this is now slowly changing. You may therefore, have to tell your GP what OCD is, as well as what your symptoms are and what treatment you are seeking. You may also wish to refer your GP to the NICE guidelines for OCD.

Sometimes people with OCD are worried about opening up about their OCD, so if you are not sure what to say to your GP, then we have created a GP Ice-Breaker printout to help you during that first appointment. You can download it and print for free from our website, or please send a SAE and we will send a copy to you.

When you first see your GP about your symptoms, he or she will want to consider whether you have OCD, so they may ask you a series of questions (this is called an assessment).  In many cases the GP should refer you to a suitably qualified healthcare professional for the assessment.  This is likely to be a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist who will ensure a correct diagnosis and a course of treatment.

Assuming you are diagnosed with OCD, then ensure that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the treatment you are offered, CBT is very different to counselling, so be sure to ask for clarification if you are unsure what treatment you are being offered.

Most GPs will listen to your personal wishes with regards to treatment options.  Your own preference is important and after a full discussion your healthcare professional should support your choice where possible.  However, if your GP refuses to refer you for your treatment of choice (CBT in most cases) until you have taken medication or tried basic counselling, you should challenge this if it is not something you wish to try. You may wish to contact the OCD-UK advocacy team for advice in this situation.

If you need to see more than one healthcare professional about your OCD and other health issues, they should make sure that there is a written agreement about who is responsible for the various aspects of your care. This agreement should be discussed with you and you should be given a copy of this agreement.

Remember, the NICE guidelines for OCD are very clear that if you have OCD and your symptoms are mild, you should first be offered at least 10 hours of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) including Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

So to summarise we recommend:

  • Making an appointment with your GP.
  • Requesting an assessment for a diagnosis of OCD with a specialist consultant psychologist or psychiatrist.

If OCD is diagnosed:

  • Requesting a treatment course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) including Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).  This can be done with or without medication, depending on your personal choice.

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