Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) is an effective tool used to help individuals who suffer from anxiety, phobias, and obsessive/intrusive thoughts that may appear in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). According to the International OCD Foundation, ERP involves exposing a person to the thoughts, images, objects, and situations that make a person nervous or trigger a person’s obsessions.
Fletcher Wortmann, author of Triggered: A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and writer for Psychology Today explained in 2012 that there are many forms of ERP, depending on the disorder, and that the goal of ERP is to show that while safety isn’t always necessary or desirable, a person can thrive even when faced by their own fears. For example, someone who suffers from OCD thoughts regarding contamination may slowly be exposed to objects that are dirty or perceived as dirty and the person will gradually practice not immediately checking or cleaning for contamination. The idea is that even when faced with something that could cause contamination, the person is still safe.
According to Beyond OCD, an organization that aims to provide tools to help people overcome OCD, the first step in ERP is for the person to describe to their therapist their obsessions or compulsions. From there, the therapist will design “exposures” or “challenges” in which the person can become triggered. Each time the person is exposed, they will gradually increase the amount of time they avoid their compulsions. After several exposures, the person eventually learns that their anxiety peaks and then decreases with each time.
The International OCD Foundation notes that ERP is different from normal talk therapy because while general talk therapy involves helping someone gain insight into their issues, ERP exposes a person directly to their fears to help them overcome their issues. However, it is important to note that each person is different and responds to therapy approaches differently.
For those who suffer from anxiety, compulsions are a way to help ease fear and obsessions. However, these fears and compulsions are often irrational and can negatively impact daily life. ERP provides a safe way for a person to work through their anxiety and fears, and to learn that what they fear is in fact not that terrifying.
If you suffer from OCD, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or a different mental illness, you may want to speak with a therapist about ERP. Speaking with a healthcare professional could be the step that you need to begin your journey to recovery.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be difficult to live with. Your life does not have to carry on unmanageably. Recovery from mental health disorders is possible and is a chance at a new life. New Vista Behavioral Health is a family of treatment providers offering a full range of care options for OCD as a primary or co-occurring disorder. Our programs are held to higher standards, ensuring that they provide exceptional care with better outcomes. Call us today to start your journey to recovery: 888-316-3665