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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow OCD Treatment Without Medication: Is This Safe?

OCD Treatment Without Medication: Is This Safe?

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
6 min read 1086 Views 0 Comments
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Not everyone wants to take medication for their mental health. Seeking natural treatment could help an OCD sufferer without causing side effects. We provide ways you can overcome OCD at home and triggers to look out for when preventing obsessive thoughts.

OCD treatment without medication

Certain types of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) medication might not work for everyone.

Prescription drugs are meant to improve your mental health, but there are times when you may experience adverse side effects such as mood changes. Those who hate relying on medication usually find other natural treatments that focus on changing their long-term mindset. 

There are therapy techniques and good habits that can help reduce OCD symptoms. You may not always need medication or chemical relief right away. If you’re curious about natural treatments for OCD, it’s worth learning about them before relying on medication.

Just keep reading to discover OCD treatments that don’t require medication.

OCD Treatment Without Medication: Is It Possible?

Yes, you can seek professional therapy or practice mindfulness at home instead of taking prescription drugs for OCD. Not everyone wants to take medicine for their symptoms or rely on chemical ingredients that supposedly reduce unwanted thoughts.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a behavioral problem that may cause intrusive thoughts and repetitive actions throughout the day. Some medications increase serotonin chemicals to combat this, but they might cause depressive side effects for certain OCD sufferers. 

Some people can request therapy when first-line treatment doesn’t work. This might be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that aims to change your mindset. You talk to a medical professional about your fears, thoughts, and negative cycles when it comes to OCD. 

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) gradually exposes people to their triggering situation in a safe environment. This type of therapy is not easy, but it can challenge your mind. It is designed to help an OCD sufferer face their fears without falling into self-destructive behaviors

Any form of psychotherapy or talk therapy usually helps those with OCD. This is because they have to acknowledge their own behavior instead of pushing it aside using medication. You can always seek reassurance from medical professionals if you’re worried about talk therapy.

Of course, psychodynamic therapy isn’t the only option. People can exercise regularly, complete mindfulness training, and practice sleep techniques to reduce OCD symptoms. Left untreated, your paranoid thoughts will turn into more compulsive behaviors and damaging rituals.

What Is OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)?

As mentioned previously, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental disorder in people who have unwanted thought patterns and obsessions that lead to damaging behaviors. These compulsions might interfere with social relationships and day-to-day activities like getting out of bed.

People with OCD usually experience depression and anxiety when trying to ignore their obsessions. This can encourage them to perform compulsive acts that turn into bad habits. They might wash their hands more than five times before eating or check doors repeatedly. 

The vicious cycle of OCD focuses on certain themes. Some of these might be the fear of food contamination or needing things to be orderly and symmetrical. Everyone has their unique worries, so these obsessions depend on your brain function and internal mental struggles.

Studies suggest that people may get OCD attacks if they can’t act compulsively. Sometimes, the fear of intrusive thoughts can send someone into an overwhelming state of panic. Anyone suffering from mental health conditions should seek the right treatment from their doctors.

What Are the Symptoms of OCD? 

People with OCD will experience different symptoms depending on their mental state. One person might have obsessive thoughts while someone else experiences panic attacks. You should seek professional help if you have more than two of the common symptoms.

Here are some of the OCD symptoms: 

#1 Obsessions

One of the most common symptoms of OCD is unwanted obsessions that take the form of intrusive or persistent thoughts. Some people get a combination of images, fears, doubts, and urges. These obsessions usually interfere with the person’s daily life and close relationships. 

You may try to get rid of obsessions by engaging in compulsive behaviors. For example, obsessing about contaminated food could lead to overcooking. Any kind of worrying thought usually comes up randomly throughout the day or when you’re trying to concentrate.

#2 Compulsions

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that take over your logical awareness. You might do excessive cleaning, handwashing, or cooking to eliminate intrusive thoughts. At first, people resist the urge as much as possible until that obsessive thought becomes more overwhelming. 

People with compulsive behavior only perform the action to feel relief. They feel obligated to accept these urges to avoid bringing harm to themselves or loved ones. One example is germ contamination, meaning someone will wash their hands repeatedly until they feel clean. 

#3 Very intense emotions

Studies have shown that OCD causes intense emotions in some people. You may get aversive emotions such as anxiety, fear, and disgust after experiencing negative thoughts. Not feeling satisfied with your compulsive acts could also cause heightened feelings of inner rage. 

What Can Cause OCD?

There are many different theories about how OCD develops. One theory doesn’t cater to everyone, meaning that this disorder stems from a wide variety of reasons. Researchers believe that personal experiences, biological factors, genetics, and personality all play a huge role.

Personal experiences could involve childhood trauma, domestic abuse, or bullying. Going through something traumatic usually changes the way you perceive life. Because of this, you might develop obsessions that relate to past neglect or anxieties associated with parents.

Ongoing anxiety or stress can also trigger OCD or make compulsions worse. For example, pregnancy and giving birth may change your behavior. Perinatal OCD causes recent mothers to feel worried about contaminating their baby or not following the same patterned behavior daily.

Some research suggests that certain personality traits may be more likely to develop OCD. These traits comprise being neat, methodical, or strict. If someone has high standards, they might need everything in their lives to be exactly right; otherwise, they won’t feel satisfied. 

Biological factors, like the lack of serotonin in the brain, may cause OCD. This chemical is also associated with depression and anxiety. People diagnosed with OCD may have unusual brain activity that shows chemical imbalances or serotonin deficiency that causes depression

How to Treat OCD on Your Own?

There are natural remedies for treating OCD without medication. You don’t always need prescription drugs for antidepressants to feel better. Just remember to discuss possible treatments with your doctor that are both long-term and comfortable for your needs.

Here are ways you can treat OCD on your own: 

#1 Practice self-care and mindfulness 

You should practice self-care techniques to calm unwanted thoughts. A study found that mindfulness has positive effects on your mood. People will have lower stress levels, meaning they won’t feel as anxious or worried when it comes to navigating their everyday lives. 

For more guidance on meditation, consider trying one of the best mental health apps. You can find many wellness lessons and mood journaling features. Changing your mindset is key to reducing controlling obsessions and compulsive behaviors that make you feel unlovable

#2 Get plenty of sleep

Not getting enough good sleep can worsen OCD symptoms. You might feel more paranoid and exhausted when it comes to compulsive thoughts. Aim to get high-quality sleep by relaxing in a dark environment, reducing your screen time, avoiding large meals, and exercising regularly. 

#3 Stop drinking and smoking

Drinking alcohol and smoking could make your mental health worse. The nagging fears and compulsive urges tend to grow when fueled with unhealthy substances. People suffering from this disorder usually avoid both alcohol and cigarettes to keep their mind clear of negativity. 

#4 Consider therapy

You could always speak to a therapist about your internal struggles. People may seek therapy to release their emotions and request calming techniques. A professional therapist will help you build a self-care routine that reduces the risk of OCD attacks or bad compulsive urges. 

Certain family members may also recommend that social connection. One study found that social relationships can improve your long-term mental health. Simple conversations with a dedicated therapist could be a great way of boosting your mood and overall confidence. 

A Word From a Psychologist

Doctors who are treating OCD might prescribe first-line treatments. These usually come in the form of pill-based medications that act as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, they may trigger side effects like nausea, panic attacks, constipation, loss of appetite, and agitation.

Some people avoid this medication and find other treatments with minimal side effects. This could be CBT lessons or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – a type of therapy that encourages you to embrace your thoughts and feelings without fighting against them.

You should always feel comfortable with your treatment. There are certain antidepressants and SSRIs that don’t affect serotonin levels the way they are supposed to. Everyone is completely different, so don’t be afraid to request other common treatments from a medical professional.

Consider going out for morning walks or long-distance runs to reduce OCD symptoms. One study found that exercise can improve your mood and be a part of a comprehensive treatment. You only need at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day to notice emotional changes.


So, can you treat OCD without taking medication? 

You could try exposure and response prevention or seek light therapy sessions to manage your mental health. One obsessive thought can turn into a negative habit, so it’s important to consult with a medical professional about other forms of exploration like therapy and exercise.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
6 min read 1086 Views 0 Comments

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