Study says 'exposure therapy' combined with antidepressants may help OCD


A new study suggests that patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have better results when combining antidepressant drugs with intensive "exposure therapy" versus taking a two-drug combination.

The exposure therapy used in the study required twice-weekly therapy sessions, which could potentially mean many patients cannot afford the treatment or will refuse it.

The study, however, showed that patients whose antidepressant medication is not alleviating all symptoms can benefit from exposure therapy more than they will with an additional drug, usually risperidone (used in the study).

Study lead author Dr. Helen Blair Simpson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, stated: "If risperidone is tried, clinicians should know that it is likely to help only a small subset, and it should be discontinued if there is no obvious benefit."

Exposure therapy is a relatively simple procedure in which OCD patients are slowly, in growing stages, exposed to what causes them fear. Depending on the therapist's gauge of what a patient can handle, the exposure may be very fast and all at once, or slowly increase in size over time. Often, this kind of confrontation with a patient's fears can change views of that fear for the better - if done correctly.

Researchers for the study randomly assigned 100 adult OCD patients already on antidepressants to add either risperidone, a placebo or twice-weekly, 17-step exposure therapy sessions. Patients who took the sessions had the most benefit.

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry on Sept. 11, 2013.


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