Overcoming OCD
Information for College Students

Medication Can Help Treat OCD—But Don’t Go It Alone

Medication may be recommended along with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to treat your OCD. Medication can help with depression. It can also help lower the anxiety and stress associated with the obsessions, and can help lower the urge to perform the compulsive behavior.  But while many people enjoy some relief from their symptoms while on medication, very few are able to use medication alone to eliminate symptoms entirely.  Medication may be prescribed by a psychiatrist for moderate to severe OCD, often on a temporary basis.  Once you’re able to better manage the anxiety and stress during CBT, the medication may be tapered off and then eliminated.  It should never be discontinued abruptly.

CBT therapy teaches you to get control over your obsessions and compulsions, and studies have shown that 85% of people who complete a course of CBT have eliminated or greatly reduced symptoms.  The success rate for medication alone is far lower and usually, when medication is discontinued, any benefit from taking it also goes away.

Antidepressants classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are known to decrease OCD symptoms in many people. Most of these medications do not show symptom relief immediately.  Some may begin to work within a few weeks, but often it may take 12 weeks or more to notice relief.

Because body chemistry varies greatly among individuals, the medication(s) prescribed and the dosage(s) will vary.  Some people with OCD respond well to the first medication prescribed; others will need to try more than one, under medical supervision, to find the one that is most effective.

OCD medications must be prescribed by a doctor.  In treating OCD, your CBT therapist may work with a psychiatrist who is experienced in prescribing and monitoring different medications for OCD and can assess their effectiveness.  Patience and medical guidance are necessary to ensure that no allergy or side effects occur that would interfere with general health or in your ability to undergo CBT.

If your college or university’s student health center or counseling service refers you to a doctor to receive medication for OCD, ask them to also refer you to a cognitive behavior therapist for CBT therapy.  Remember that CBT is still the “gold standard” for treatment of OCD—with proven, long-lasting results unmatched by medication alone.

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