OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

The Unwelcome Intruder

Understanding, Pinpointing, and Treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Understanding OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

OCD is an anxiety disorder where people have constant and unwanted thoughts that cause stress, worry or urges to perform actions to reduce this stress.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (commonly known as OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by recurring, persistent, and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) that cause distress or excessive worry and urges (compulsions) performed to decrease this worry. The obsessions are intrusive, the compulsions are persistent, and both interfere with everyday life. Obsessions are characterized by powerful thoughts (or beliefs) such as, “if I don’t wash my hands exactly three times after touching a doorknob I will get sick”. Washing hands in a specific way becomes the compulsion. Compulsions and the desire to complete them are irrational and can be very strong. Sufferers often perform their rituals as if their lives depended on it.

More than 2.2 million American adults from all walks of life suffer from OCD. The disorder is equally common among both men and women. As hard as it is to live with OCD and its unending cycle of worry and controlling obsessions, sufferers should know that they are not alone, and there is hope. At Valley, we understand OCD and how to treat this frustrating disorder. We look forward to meeting and treating you.

Facts & Figures

OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) Averages & Statistics


What Are the Symptoms of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)?

At times, OCD can be challenging to diagnose due to similarity with other disorders such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Comorbidity or the presence of more than one disorder at the same time can also make diagnosis difficult. Measurement of OCS or Obsessive Compulsive Symptoms can provide some insight.

Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder fall into two categories: 


If left untreated could include: Fear of germs or dirt Needing environments orderly and or symmetrical Intrusive thoughts about harming oneself or others Unwanted thoughts around violence, sexual or religious subjects


If left untreated could include: Excessive hand-washing, often until skin becomes raw Checking the oven repeatedly to make sure it is turned off Checking repeatedly to make sure locks are secure Arranging items to make sure they are perfectly aligned

Valley Services

How is Valley Treating OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)?

Paying regular attention to your mental well-being is good and should be a very normal part of healthy living.  At Valley, we know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health, which is why we take the time to care for each client individually and consider their broader story. Every client that walks through our doors is assessed holistically and cared for in a comprehensive way within a solution-focused approach.

We offer a wide variety of counseling and counseling environments for a wide variety of clients:

Our individual counseling focuses in on each client and their unique story in order to discover the solutions that are right for them. After pairing our clients with the ideal therapist, we take the time to press into the cognitive, behavioral, and motivational aspects of our client’s recovery while also considering dual-diagnosis.

Research shows that counseling within a group setting is just as effective, sometimes even more so than individual care. At Valley, we are proud to provide robust and interactive care groups led by trained clinicians. These empowering spaces have proven to be an invaluable resource for learning coping skills, feeling acceptance, and avoiding social isolation.

While every client needs to be individually motivated to seek treatment, one of the largest factors in successful treatment is a solid support system. In family and couples counseling we partner with immediate family, primary caregivers, adopted families, and support systems to get everyone on the same page in caring for their loved ones.

Initial treatment approach will depend on the severity of each individuals symptoms. For more severe symptoms medication can often help patients engage more effectively in Exposure and Response Prevention. Most commonly, this will include serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SRIs.

Complementary & Alternative Treatments

Integrating Alternative Medicine and Activity

Incorporating complementary or alternative medicine is often referred to as an integrated approach and works best when used alongside professional treatment. Don’t replace conventional medical treatment or psychotherapy with alternative medicine.

With that said, here are some things proven to be helpful when dealing with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder):

Dietary Supplements
  • St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Clinical evidence that St. John’s Wort is an effective treatment for OCD is limited. However, We know that antidepressant medications that target the serotonin system are effective in treating OCD which makes St. John’s Wort a likely alternative therapy since it has been used for decades in treating mood and anxiety disorders. -Hypericum—the key compound in St. John’s Wort—appears to affect serotonin in the brain which is tied to the development of OCD symptoms.
  • Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum) Milk thistle has been used as an herbal remedy for thousands of years. A recent double-blind study compared its effects to that of the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine) in treating OCD (600 mg of milk thistle vs 30 mg of Prozac daily). Amazingly the research concluded that there was no significant difference between the two in the control of OCD symptoms.
  • N-Acetylcysteine N-Acetylcysteine is an amino acid that helps create glutathione. One study suggests that it improves the effectiveness of the SSRI Luvox, reducing OCD symptoms.
  • 5-HTP and Inositol Since serotonin and glutathione appear to be connected to OCD, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and inositol should also be considered.

More clinical studies need to be performed to determine the effectiveness of supplements and natural interventions for people with OCD. Positive lifestyle changes on the other hand rarely have negative side effects and may also help reduce stress. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement. Even natural supplements can have side effects and interfere with the actions of prescription medications.


Exercise is generally classified as aerobic (running or walking), resistance (weight training), or mindfulness-based (yoga or tai chi). Exercise is known to improve cognitive mechanisms due to a diversion from negative thinking, social contact, and feelings of control over one’s health. Consider walking, jogging, swimming, gardening or another activity that you enjoy.  


Getting a healthy amount of sleep is important for both your physical and mental well-being. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or therapist about what they can do to help aid in getting better sleep.

Calming Techniques

Stress complicates any disorder. These activities may help with relaxation and be a valuable part of your treatment plan. Several alternative treatments aim to reduce anxiety and stress. These treatments include:

  • massage therapy
  • yoga
  • acupuncture
  • meditation

Videos & Podcasts

Knowledgeable Insights from Around the Web


You've Heard of OCD, But Do You Really Understand It?

05:13 Min

Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

08:28 Min

Understanding the OCD Brain

07:31 Min


The Mental Illness Happy Hour


Actor, Paul Rust, on Anxiety, OCD & Embarassment

The OCD Stories


Mark Freeman on his recovery from OCD, and how you can beat it!

Page Turners

Great Resources on OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts

By Sally M. Winston, PsyD & Martin N. Seif, PhD

Brain Lock, Twentieth Anniversary Edition: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior

By Jeffrey M. Schwartz

The OCD Workbook: Your Guide to Breaking Free from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)

By Bruce M. Hyman PhD LCSW & Cherlene Pedrick RN

The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions and Compulsions Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)

By Jon Hershfield & Tom Corboy

When a Family Member Has OCD: Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Skills to Help Families Affected by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

By Jon Hershfield MFT

Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Powerful, Practical Program for Parents of Children and Adolescents

By Tamar E. Chansky

The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)

By Sharon Martin

The Complete OCD Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Free Yourself from Intrusive Thoughts and Compulsive Behaviors

By Scott Granet

Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty, Updated Edition

By Jonathan Grayson

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide to Getting Well and Staying Well

By Fred Penzel

Research and Resources

Great Articles & Resources on OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Diet, Exercise, Sleep, Therapy
Ten Things You Need To Know To Overcome OCD

By experienced psychologist Fred Penzel, Ph.D. I have been actively involved in the treatment of OCD since 1982 and have treated over 850 cases of the disorder.  During that time, I have come to many valuable understandings that I believe are important tools for anyone planning to take on this disorder.  Putting together this type …

Diet, Exercise, Sleep, Therapy
Tips for Living With OCD

Even when things are going well, OCD can hijack your day. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors — and the anxiety that comes with them — can take up massive amounts of time and energy. Though medication and therapy are the main ways to treat this lifelong condition, self-care is a secret weapon with plenty of side benefits. Food and mood.  The only thing …

How Can OCD Be Prevented by Diet?

Certain dietary factors are believed to have an impact on the development or exacerbation of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder that manifests in obsessions, or repetitive, intrusive thoughts and compulsions, or repetitive, uncontrollable behaviors. According to the Association for Comprehensive Neurotherapy, a diet rich in whole grains and protein may be …

Five Daily Lifestyle Changes to Manage Intrusive Thoughts

What may seem like minor behavior changes, can add up to greatly improve your standard of living. 1. Accept and embrace the thought. What happens when you try to control the intrusive thought? It strengthens the thought and prolongs your anxiety. Trying to push it away or avoid thinking it will inadvertently send a message …

Diet, Sleep, Therapy
How to cope with OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a disruptive condition to live with, but there are steps that you can take to cope with it. In this Spotlight, we take you through them. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) occurs when a person has recurring thoughts and behaviors that they cannot control. Individuals with OCD feel that they must repeat these thoughts …