Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Care Instructions

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) makes you have unwanted thoughts that occur over and over. For example, you might always wonder if the oven was turned off before you left home. To get rid of these thoughts, you may also develop a compulsion. This is an action or ritual you perform again and again. You might check several times to make sure the oven is off. The action only makes you feel better for a short time. If you try to resist the urge to do it, you may feel great anxiety or have panic attacks.

Counseling (also called therapy) can help you manage your thoughts and actions. You may have one-on-one therapy or group therapy, or both. In group therapy, people with the same concerns share their feelings and give each other support. You also may have family therapy. Your loved ones can learn more about how to help you.

Your doctor also may prescribe medicine, such as an antidepressant, to help with symptoms.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

It's important to take care of yourself every day when you have OCD. Take your medicines as directed. And do the homework your therapist gives you. The homework may include exercises called ERP. This stands for exposure and response prevention.

Reducing overall stress in your life is not a proven treatment for OCD symptoms. But it may help you cope.

It's a good idea to involve family members and loved ones in your treatment. This is even more important if your doctor suggested that you have therapy together. Keep the lines of communication open. It may help you deal with relationships that have become strained during your condition.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to 988lifeline.org for more information or to chat online.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • A person with OCD mentions suicide. If a suicide threat seems real, with a specific plan and a way to carry it out, you should stay with the person, or ask someone you trust to stay with the person, until you get help.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your unwanted thoughts or repeated actions and rituals upset your daily activities.
  • Your symptoms of OCD are new or different from those you had before.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter M712 in the search box to learn more about "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.