Alternative Treatments for OCD – What Works, What Doesn’t

Intrusive thoughts that won't go away. Disturbing impulses. Compulsive behaviors that don't make sense. No matter how hard you try to stop or control them, you can't. That's the nature of the challenging and complex anxiety disorder known as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD for short. OCD can manifest in a variety of ways, ranging from washing your hands every time you tough something to saying a fervent prayer dozens of times after committing what you feel is a sin.

Statistics show that OCD impacts approximately 1 out of every 100 adults [1]. If you're one of them, you owe it to yourself to consider all possible treatment options. Therapy - particularly cognitive behavioral therapy - has been shown to be quite effective in helping people manage and even overcome OCD. However, not everyone has the health coverage or financial resources to see a therapist every week for months on end. Medication can also be beneficial, although it's most effective when used in conjunction with therapy. But it can also be expensive and cause unwanted side effects.

For individuals with mild to moderate OCD, health experts have found a number of alternative treatments and remedies that can help reduce symptoms. Following are several of the most common alternative OCD therapies:

Hypnotherapy

The word hypnosis often conjures up images of a side show audience member who is put into a trance and instructed to perform silly tricks. Hypnotherapy, however, is a legitimate treatment option for a variety of disorders, including OCD. While it doesn't work for everyone, some people have found it to be very helpful. A qualified hypnotherapist uses hypnosis to create a heightened state of awareness and deep relaxation. This hypnotic state allows you to be more receptive to suggestions that can facilitate positive changes in thoughts and behaviors.

Hypnotherapy is sometimes used to increase the effectiveness of conventional therapy. For example, under hypnosis you may be more willing to discuss a trauma or deeply buried emotions. Unresolved trauma or emotional conflict is often at the root of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Your therapist can use that information to devise a more targeted treatment plan. While there's little published research confirming the effectiveness of hypnosis in reducing OCD, there are several studies underway.

Inositol

Inositol, which is related to the B vitamins, may help restore the balance of body chemicals that contribute to a range of psychiatric disorders, including panic disorder and OCD. Some smaller studies have found that it significantly reduced obsessive-compulsive scores in patients [2] [3]; however, no large-scale studies have been published yet. Inositol is considered a safe supplement for most people, but it does have side effects, including dizziness, nausea, and tiredness. It can also take several weeks before its beneficial effects are felt. The supplement doesn't require a prescription and can be found in health food stores.

Meditation

Relaxation through meditation is an effective way to reduce the anxiety that triggers obsessive-compulsive behaviors. This practice has long been recommended for improving both the mind and body, but modern research now suggests those claims have merit. Regular meditation may offer a host of benefits, including reduction in the level of stress hormones coursing through the body [4]. If you have OCD, it may help clear away the mental chaos while relaxing your body - both of which create a healthier mindset.

The best part about using meditation for obsessive-compulsive disorder is that it's free and very easy to learn. It can also be done in any quiet location, from your bedroom in the morning to a parked car over a lunch break. There are plenty of websites and self-help CDs that will get you started meditating in no time. Your therapist may also have tips for practicing effective meditation for OCD.

St. John's Wort

This health news supplement darling is often touted as a way to reduce OCD symptoms. But does it work? Although studies have linked it to alleviating symptoms of depression, there's no conclusive evidence that it reduces the symptoms of OCD. In fact, one study found that it had no significant impact on OCD patients and performed only as well as a placebo [5]. What's more, St. John's wort can make many other medications, like those used to treat depression or allergies, less effective. If you choose to try this supplement, always check with a doctor, pharmacist, or mental health professional before adding it to your treatment regimen.

Yoga

Yoga has been used for thousands of years by people around the globe to build a stronger mind and body. With its origins in ancient Indian philosophy, yoga combines physical movement, controlled breathing, and meditation. Research supports the benefits of using the practice to manage a variety of mental health disorders. For example, one study found that OCD patients practicing yoga for one year showed noticeable symptom improvement [6]. In another small study of OCD sufferers, some patients were even able to stop taking medication within 7 months of starting yoga practice [7].

If you choose yoga to help your OCD symptoms, you'll find plenty of options for learning the practice. Yoga can be done in a group setting at your local gym or practiced at home with a DVD or online video. Your mental health treatment provider may also have recommendations for finding qualified yoga instruction.

Exercise

Yes, the doctors have been telling you for years to exercise, but if you live with OCD it may be time to take that advice. Although not an actual treatment, per se, regular aerobic exercise has been shown to benefit anxiety disorders. From jogging around the neighborhood to swimming laps, exercise increases the brain's own mood boosters. Health experts have known for some time that these all-natural chemicals reduce anxiety; now preliminary studies suggest that they may reduce symptoms of the disorder as well. In one 12-week study, researchers discovered that moderate-intensity exercise reduced OCD symptoms, anxiety, and negative moods [8].

Is an alternative OCD treatment right for you?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a complex disorder that should be treated under the guidance of a qualified mental health professional. Always talk with your doctor or therapist about how alternative treatments, including natural supplements, might fit in with your treatment plan. These options might not completely eliminate the need for psychotherapy or medication, but alternative treatments may reduce the need for them or make them more effective. Remember to consult with a mental health professional before discontinuing any traditional OCD treatment.

Don't let the obsessions and compulsions of this disorder dictate your life any longer. Consider alternative treatments that can help reduce your anxiety and improve your life in a safe and effective way.

Posted on December 10th, 2012
Posted in Recovery

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