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Frequently Asked Questions

Before you begin therapy for OCD, it's normal to have a few questions about diagnosis and treatment. We are here to help bring some clarity to the process.

I think I have OCD. How do I know for sure?

Have you filled out numerous OCD quizzes online without finding a whole lot of answers? That might be because there is a lot of misinformation online that can be confusing. It takes a trained specialist to give you an official diagnosis, but here is a scientifically-verified screening tool to see if you may benefit from a conversation about OCD.

  1. Do you have frequent unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that feel out of your control? These are referred to as obsessions. (For example: repeated doubt or need for exactness, fear of contaminating yourself or others, thoughts of harming people, animals, or objects, or sexual, religious, existential, or relationship-based thoughts that you find unacceptable)

  2. Do you perform repetitive behaviors or mental rituals? These are referred to as compulsions. (For example: checking or arranging, avoiding things, looking for answers online, reassurance seeking, counting, reviewing past events, saying certain phrases in your head)

  3. Over the last month, have these obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors resulted in: noticeable distress or interference with your functioning at home, work, school, social life, in your relationships, or in any other significant manner, and/or consumed more than an hour of your day?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might benefit from an assessment from an OCD specialist.


What causes OCD?

Scientists have identified a combination of genetic, neurological, behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors linked with OCD. Here are some contributing factors that are believed to play a role in the development of OCD:

  • Genetics: There appears to be a genetic component to OCD, as individuals with a family history of the disorder are more likely to develop it themselves. 

  • Brain Structure and Function: Differences in brain structure and function, particularly involving the frontal cortex, basal ganglia, and the neurotransmitter serotonin, have been observed in individuals with OCD. These brain areas are involved in decision-making, impulse control, and emotional regulation.

  • Neurotransmitters: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate, are thought to contribute to the development of OCD. Medications that affect these neurotransmitters, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are commonly used in the treatment of OCD.

  • Environmental Factors: Stressful life events and trauma may contribute to the onset or exacerbation of OCD symptoms. However, not everyone with OCD has experienced such events.

  • Cognitive Factors: Cognitive processes, such as faulty beliefs or cognitive biases, may contribute to the development and maintenance of OCD. 

It's important to note that OCD is a complex disorder, and each client’s development of symptoms has a unique path. The good news is that OCD responds very well to treatment and some clients end up falling below the clinical cutoff for a diagnosis at the end of treatment.


What is the difference between Obsessions and Compulsions?

OBSESSIONS are unwanted distressing thoughts, images or urges that plague a person's mind.


COMPULSIONS are strategies (mental or physical) to relieve the distress associated with the accompanied obsession. They are often a type of “safety behavior” that has gotten stuck in a vicious loop.


How is OCD treated? 

Exposure Response Therapy (ERP) remains the gold standard for OCD therapy. Many clients who have tried ERP tend to feel that, despite their progress, they continue to play a relentless game of whack-a-mole with new compulsions. We hear that a lot, and have found that using Inference-based CBT alongside ERP has been a game-changer for a lot of our clients.


How common is OCD?

2-3% of the world’s population has OCD, which is far more common than most people realize. The good news? 80% of clients see significant symptom reduction with various types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and exposure-based therapies.


Do you have experience with specific subtypes of OCD?

We have seen an incredible variety of OCD subtypes over the years, but in truth the subtype doesn’t change the treatment plan very much. Because OCD focuses on imagined scenarios, there are an endless variety of subtypes out there. If you can imagine it, you can have a new subtype. Common subtypes that we have treated are:

  • Contamination

  • Religious Scrupulosity

  • Relationship (R-OCD)

  • “Just Right” or Perfectionism

  • Magical Thinking

  • Checking

  • Counting

  • Existential and False memory

  • Harm and Violent Obsessions

  • Pedophilia 

  • Suicidal

  • Perinatal and Postpartum (for men and women)

  • Purely Obsessional or “Pure O”


HELP! My OCD is causing problems in my family.

This technically isn't a question, but it's something we hear a lot. We know that OCD impacts not just the client, but the whole family system. We enjoy partnering with loved ones and educating them about how they can support the client’s treatment while maintaining healthy boundaries.


How do I fit therapy into my busy schedule?

While we have a physical location in Kirkwood, MO, we also offer online therapy all over the state of Missouri. We use a secure, confidential video conferencing system that reduces the stress and time of traveling to and from sessions. If you have never done therapy online before, it is the same as an in-person session. You would meet with your therapist in the comfort and privacy of your own space and fit it into any free hour in your schedule, such as on your lunch break. While COVID was extremely challenging for our collective mental health, it also brought virtual meetings into the mainstream and it's clear that they are here to stay.


A mix of in-person and Telehealth services is possible too. Just ask!

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