Treating OCD Without Medication: Possible?

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on May 15, 2023
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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by obsessive, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that can seriously impact a person’s daily routine.

Many individuals with OCD turn to medication as a form of OCD treatment, however, this might not always be the best or only solution for OCD and related disorders.

The Online Mental Health Reviews team is composed of licensed mental health professionals and experts who have years of experience treating patients with OCD. They have also conducted extensive research on non-medication-based treatments for OCD and are well-informed about the latest developments in the field.

In this blog post, we will explore whether treating OCD without medication is possible, and what the risks and benefits are of doing so.

Can OCD go away?

OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management. It is not something that can be cured completely, but it can be managed with the right treatment.

People with OCD often have marked improvement in their symptoms when they receive therapy. In some cases, OCD may even go away without treatment.

However, this is not common and most people will need to work on managing their symptoms over time.

It is important to remember that you are not alone in your struggle with OCD and there are resources available to help you manage your condition. With the right support and treatment plan, you can learn how to cope with your OCD and live a more fulfilling life.

Overview – OCD Treatment without Meds

While medication can help treat OCD symptoms, it does not always address the root cause of the condition.

Additionally, medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics can cause undesirable side effects. Some individuals may prefer not to take medication due to concerns about dependency, withdrawal, or the stigma that still exists around mental health conditions and treatments of obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Alternatives to medication for treating OCD include therapy and self-help strategies.

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that focuses on reframing negative obsessive thought patterns and managing compulsive behaviors.
  2. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a subtype of CBT that exposes individuals to the triggers of their obsessions in a controlled environment, helping them to overcome their compulsions.

While therapy can be an effective treatment option, not all insurance companies cover it, and the cost of therapy can be prohibitive for some individuals. Fortunately, companies like Talkspace ($100 per the first month) cover 40 million Americans through online therapy with evidence-based therapies for issues like OCD.

Additionally, many self-help strategies can also help treat OCD.

These include mindfulness, exercise, and stress management techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation.

It is important to note that even when using non-medical forms of treatment, it is still important to seek professional help and guidance.

A mental health professional with experience in treating OCD can provide an accurate diagnosis and help guide you through the treatment process. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment can be dangerous and ineffective.

Can OCD be Fixed without Medication? Sometimes, but Often Not

It is possible to treat OCD without medication, but it requires time, effort, and dedication.

While medication may be prescribed to help reduce the symptoms of OCD, it does not address the root cause of the disorder.

The most effective treatment for OCD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

  • This type of therapy helps people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with OCD.
  • CBT also teaches people how to manage anxiety and stress healthily.
  • Other treatments such as deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and psychodynamic therapy may also be used to help manage symptoms.

What are the 4 Types of OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that can cause unwanted thoughts and behaviors.

It is characterized by four main types of OCD:

  1. Contamination OCD: This type of OCD involves an obsession with germs, dirt, or other contaminants, and the compulsion to clean or avoid certain places or objects.
  2. Perfection OCD: This type of OCD involves an obsession with perfectionism and the compulsion to repeat tasks until they are done perfectly.
  3. Doubt and Harm OCD: This type of OCD involves an obsession with doubt and fear of causing harm to oneself or others, as well as compulsions to check on things repeatedly in order to alleviate these fears.
  4. Intrusive Thoughts OCD: This type of OCD involves persistent intrusive thoughts that are often sexual, religious, or violent, as well as compulsions to perform mental rituals to reduce anxiety associated with these thoughts.

Potential Costs of OCD

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a mental health disorder that can be treated without medication. Treatment options vary in cost, but there are some low-cost and even free options available.

A recent study1 shows that the cost of having OCD can be much higher than the cost of having depression. In one study, researchers found that people with OCD spent a total of $25,666 on health care in the two years after they were first diagnosed.

People with depression, on the other hand, paid $7,832. This means that OCD is about three times as expensive when compared to depression.

There could be a number of reasons for this, such as if the people with OCD also had physical disorders that led to higher overall healthcare costs, or if it was hard to treat OCD because it can show up in so many different ways and is often misunderstood by both laypeople and professionals.

Additionally, there is simply more information online about depression, and more people have depression than OCD. For example, online courses and books about depression are extremely popular these days, but with OCD, you just don’t see as much excellent content (in comparison to depression).

Psychedelics have also been studied as a potential treatment for OCD with some promising results. However, it is important to note that psychedelics are not approved by the American Psychiatric Association and should only be used under medical supervision.

Can OCD Be Self-Treated?

Yes, OCD can be self-treated to some degree. While it is important to seek professional help if your symptoms are severe, there are several strategies that you can do on your own to manage OCD.

  • These include getting enough sleep (see Sleep Hacking Masterclass), eating a balanced diet, practicing deep breathing and mindfulness meditation, and engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • CBT is an evidence-based approach that helps people learn how to challenge their depressive thoughts and behaviors related to OCD.
  • Additionally, it is important to practice awareness of the distress associated with OCD and refrain from rituals during exposure.

It is also important to remember that there is no “cure” for OCD; however, with the right treatment plan and self-care strategies, you can manage your symptoms and live a healthy life.

Non-Medicinal Treatments for OCD

There are several non-medicinal treatments available to help manage symptoms of OCD.

  • One such treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which we’ve mentioned before. This type of therapy helps people learn how to identify and change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors related to their OCD. It also involves exposure and response prevention, which involves gradually exposing yourself to situations or objects that trigger your OCD and learning how to resist the urge to engage in compulsive behaviors.
  • Other non-medicinal treatments include deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (Deep TMS), nutritional supplements, exercise, guided imagery, meditation, yoga, and relaxation techniques. Deep TMS uses magnetic fields to stimulate areas of the brain involved in mood regulation.
  • Another 2020 study2 found nutritional supplements such as St John’s Wort, milk thistle, curcumin, valerian root, and borage have been researched for their potential benefits in treating OCD symptoms.
  • Exercise has been found to improve mood and reduce anxiety levels in people with OCD. Guided imagery, meditation, yoga, and relaxation techniques can help reduce stress levels associated with OCD.

Overall, there are many non-medicinal treatments available for managing symptoms of OCD that can be used alone or in combination with medication. It is important to discuss these options with your doctor or mental health professional before starting any new treatment plan

What is the Best Treatment for OCD Without Medication?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that can be managed without medication.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common form of treatment for OCD and has been proven to be highly effective. CBT helps people identify and challenge their obsessive thoughts, as well as learn how to manage their compulsions.
  • Other treatments such as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and psychotherapy have also been found to help treat OCD without medication.
  • Additionally, lifestyle changes such as reducing caffeine intake, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques can help reduce symptoms of OCD.

It’s important to remember that it may take some trial and error before you find the right combination of treatments that work for you.

What to Expect from Therapy for OCD, including Techniques Used and Length of Treatment

If you’re considering therapy for OCD, it’s important to know what to expect.

The most effective treatments for OCD are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and/or medication.

CBT encompasses a range of techniques that are highly beneficial in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

This type of therapy involves guided exposures to the fears that drive obsessions and compulsions and encourages patients to resist rituals that reduce anxiety. It also helps them learn how to better manage their thoughts and behaviors.

The length of treatment depends on the severity of your OCD symptoms.

  • If you have mild symptoms, you may need just a few sessions of CBT.
  • However, if your symptoms are more severe, you may need a longer course of treatment.
  • In addition to CBT, your therapist may also recommend other therapies such as Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP), designed to help you face your fears without engaging in compulsions or rituals.

OCD Online Therapy Treatment Through Insurance and Talkspace

Talkspace is a well-known online therapy tool that helps people with issues like OCD and other mental health problems. The app puts people in touch with licensed therapists who know how to help with OCD and other mental health problems.

Talkspace wants to make mental health care easier to get and less expensive for the more than 40 million Americans who have health insurance. The app offers personalized treatment plans, which may include medication, as well as easy-to-use ways to talk, like texting, phone, and video sessions.

In our Talkspace online review, we talk about what it was like to buy the service and share recordings of our therapy and medication meetings with a Talkspace therapist and doctor. When we talked to the doctor, we were moved to tears.

But it’s important to remember that Talkspace might not be the best choice for everyone. For people whose main worry is anxiety or depression, other tools or treatment methods, like Brightside Health, may be better. When picking an online therapy service, it’s important to think about your own needs and preferences.

Alternative options to traditional treatments available to those with OCD

If you are living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), there are alternative options available to you.

  • Meditation is a practice that involves focusing your attention on a particular object or thought to achieve a state of mental stillness and clarity. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, which are common symptoms of OCD. Try Headspace 2-week free trial.
  • Support groups provide a safe space where individuals can share their experiences and receive support from others who understand what they’re going through.
  • Somatic experiencing is a body-based therapy that focuses on the connection between physical sensations and emotional states. It helps people become more aware of their body’s reactions to stress and anxiety, which can help them better manage their OCD symptoms.
  • Creative therapies such as art, music, or writing can also be helpful for those with OCD, as they provide an outlet for expressing emotions and managing stress.
  • Non-pharmacological treatments like massage, relaxation techniques, guided imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, and gentle movement can help reduce OCD symptoms.

It is important to remember that these alternative treatments should not replace traditional treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

However, they can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments to provide additional support for managing OCD symptoms. If you are considering trying any of these alternative treatments, it is important to speak with your doctor or therapist first.

Top Treatment Options for Help with OCD without medicinal aids

If you are looking for help with OCD without medicinal aids, the most effective treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people identify and change negative patterns of thinking and behavior. It works by helping people recognize their thoughts and feelings, as well as how they interact with each other.

Through this process, people can learn to challenge their negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones. This can lead to improved mental health, better coping skills, and an overall reduction in symptoms associated with OCD.

In addition to CBT, other non-medicinal treatments for OCD may be beneficial.

  • These include Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, which focuses on gradually exposing someone to their fears or obsessions while teaching them how to resist engaging in compulsive behaviors
  • Mindfulness-based therapies such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), help people accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment
  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga; and lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding triggers that may worsen symptoms.

Steps Towards Self-Healing, Including Setting Boundaries and Practicing Self-Care

Self-healing is a process of taking care of your mental health and well-being. It involves setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and creating a safe space for yourself to heal.

  1. The first step towards self-healing is to decide that you are ready to try it.
    • This can be difficult, but it’s important to recognize that you deserve the time and effort to take care of yourself.
    • Once you have made this decision, sit in a comfortable position and become aware of your breath.
    • Taking your hands (palms together) in a prayer position can help bring focus and clarity.
  2. The next step is to accept yourself as you are right now.
    • Don’t give up on what’s important to you, forgive yourself for any mistakes or wrongdoings, and don’t try to impress others with who you are or what you do.
    • Listen to yourself and trust your intuition when making decisions about how best to take care of yourself.
    • Start each morning with a routine that helps you feel connected to yourself such as writing in a journal or meditating for a few minutes.
    • Celebrate your accomplishments no matter how small they may seem and write love letters to yourself as an act of self-love and appreciation.
    • Additionally, practice mindful breathing by inhaling for three counts and then exhaling for four counts – repeat this pattern three times until you feel more relaxed.
  3. Finally, make sure that whatever activities or practices you choose for self-care are enjoyable – whether it’s taking a ritual bath or listening to podcasts that inspire you – make sure they bring joy into your life!

Self-healing is an ongoing process that requires dedication and commitment but can be incredibly rewarding when done correctly. By following these steps towards self-healing including setting boundaries and practicing self-care, you will be able to create a safe space for yourself where healing can occur naturally over time.

resources available to those suffering from symptoms of OCD that wish not to use medication

If you are looking for free resources to help with symptoms of OCD and do not wish to use medication, there are several options available.

  1. International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) Support Groups: IOCDF offers an extensive directory of local and online support groups for individuals with OCD. These groups provide a safe, understanding environment to share experiences and coping strategies. Link:
  2. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: If you’re experiencing a crisis or struggling with your mental health, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers confidential, 24/7 support from trained counselors. Call: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) Link:
  3. OCD Action: This UK-based charity provides support, information, and resources for individuals dealing with OCD, including a helpline, online forums, and self-help materials. Helpline: +44 (0) 845 390 6232 Link:
  4. The OCD Stories Podcast: This inspiring podcast features interviews with individuals who have experienced OCD, as well as mental health professionals, sharing insights and advice on managing OCD symptoms without medication. Link:
  5. “The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD” by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy: This self-help book offers a comprehensive guide to using mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to manage OCD symptoms without medication. Link:
  6. “Getting Over OCD: A 10-Step Workbook for Taking Back Your Life” by Jonathan S. Abramowitz: This practical workbook provides evidence-based strategies and exercises to help individuals overcome OCD symptoms and regain control of their lives. Link:
  7. “Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” by Jonathan Grayson: This book offers a comprehensive, self-directed program for individuals seeking to manage their OCD symptoms without medication, incorporating cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness techniques. Link:

These free and paid resources provide valuable support, information, and guidance for those coping with OCD symptoms without medication.

By engaging with these empathetic communities and materials, individuals can work towards managing their symptoms, fostering emotional well-being, and reclaiming control over their lives.

Treating OCD Without Medication Conclusion:

In conclusion, treating OCD without medication is possible and can be effective for many individuals.

However, it is important to seek professional guidance and support throughout the treatment process. While medication is not always necessary, it can be helpful in some cases.

Ultimately, the decision to take medication or not is a personal one that should be made in consultation with a mental health professional.

Whatever treatment approach you choose, it is important to approach it with patience, persistence, and an openness to learning and growth. With time and effort, it is possible to manage and overcome OCD symptoms without the use of medication.

If you or a loved one is struggling with OCD, it might be time to explore TMS therapy as an option. OCD costs can be high, which is why other alternatives such as EMDR or TMS exist.

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  1. Medical Costs Are Much Higher in OCD Than Depression. (n.d.). Medical Costs Are Much Higher in OCD Than Depression | MDedge Psychiatry.
  2. Kuygun Karcı, C., & Gül Celik, G. (2020, March). Nutritional and herbal supplements in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. General Psychiatry, 33(2), e100159.

If You Are In Crisis

If you are in a crisis, it may not be safe to wait for an online therapy appointment. Now, if you need help right away, call 911. Plans to hurt yourself or others are part of this. You can call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 if you are thinking about hurting yourself. Help is available 24/7.

You can also call 800-662-HELP, which is the number for the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (4357). The SAMHSA line is a free, confidential service that helps people with mental or substance abuse disorders find treatment and get information about it 24/7, 365 days a year.

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