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Treatments For Obsessive-compulsive Illnesses

The problem for treatment of obsessive-compulsive illnesses must follow careful diagnosis of the specific nature of the disorder.

Methods used to treat these illnesses include a careful physical and psychological diagnosis, medications, and therapies. Besides the compulsive behavior symptoms a person with OCD exhibits, he or she may also have physical symptoms, such as tremors, dry mouth, stammering, dizziness, cramps, nausea, headaches, sweating, or butterflies in the stomach. Since these and the major symptoms are found in other illnesses, a careful diagnosis is important before treatment is prescribed.

In behavior therapy, the patient is encouraged to control behavior, which the therapist feels can be accomplished with direction. The patient is also made to understand that thoughts cannot be controlled, but that when compulsive behavior is changed gradually through modified behavior, obsessive thoughts diminish. In this therapy, patients are exposed to the fears that produce anxiety in them, called flooding, and gradually learn to deal with their fears.

Cognitive therapists feel it is important for OCD patients to learn to think differently in order to improve their condition. Because OCD patients are rational, this type of therapy can sometimes be useful. Most professionals who treat obsessive-compulsive illnesses feel that a combination of therapy and medication is helpful. Some antidepressants, like Anafranil (clomipramine) and Prozac (fluoxetine), are prescribed to help alleviate the condition.

When patients exhibit compulsive slowness, prompting and shaping techniques are used. Persons who are compulsively slow work with a helper who prompts them along gradually until they can perform actions in a more reasonable time frame, such as reducing a two-hour morning grooming period to half an hour. The shaping aspect is the reduction of time.



Amchin, Jess. Psychiatric Diagnosis: A Biopsychosocial Approach Using DSM-III-R. Washington, DC: Psychiatric Press, 1991.

Baer, Lee. Getting Control. Boston: Little, Brown, 1991.

Green, Stephen A. Green. Feel Good Again. Mt. Vernon, NY: Consumers Union, 1990.

Jamison, Kay Redfield. Touched with Fire. New York: Free Press, 1993.

Neziroglu, Fugen, and Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias. Over and Over Again. Lexington, Mass: D.C. Heath, 1991.

Vita Richman


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Anxiety disorder

—An illness in which anxiety plays a role.

Behavior therapy

—A therapeutic program that emphasizes changing behavior.

Cognitive therapy

—A therapeutic program that emphasizes changing a patient's thinking.

Compulsive behavior

—Behavior that is driven by an obsession.


—A careful evaluation by a medical professional or therapist to determine the nature of an illness or disorder.


—Exposing a person with an obsession to his or her fears as a way of helping him or her face and overcome them.

Ideational or mental compulsions

—Compulsions of a mental nature, such as counting or repeating words.

Motor compulsions

—Compulsions where a specific, ritualized act is carried out.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

—A mental illness in which a person is driven to compulsive behavior to relieve the anxiety of an obsession.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

—The preoccupation with minor details to the exclusion of larger issues; exhibiting overcontrolling and perfectionistic attitudes.

Prompting and shaping

—A therapeutic technique that involves using a helper to work with a person suffering from compulsive slowness.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cluster compound to ConcupiscenceCompulsion - Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (ocd), Obsessive-compulsive Personality Disorder, Treatments For Obsessive-compulsive Illnesses