OCD Therapy NYC

Treat your OCD with science-backed therapy

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by obsessions (recurring unwanted thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors in attempt to relieve emotional distress). Some individuals with OCD only experience obsessions, while others only experience compulsions, and others struggle with both.  

There is a misconception that OCD is merely a disorder of needing cleanliness and organization, but that’s only one way that OCD can manifest. Not everyone with obsessive-compulsive disorder is clean and tidy.  Obsessions and compulsions can consume a person’s thoughts to where it interferes with daily functioning. 


Types of OCD

Contamination OCD

People with contamination OCD have excessive and irrational fears of coming into contact with germs, chemicals, or harmful substances.  They often fear contracting or spreading disease and illness. They typically engage in compulsive behaviors such as excessive hand-washing, house cleaning, disinfecting, and avoiding objects they fear may be contaminated in some way.

Harm OCD

Harm OCD is a disorder characterized by unwanted intrusive thoughts or images of doing harm to oneself or others. This may include harming a loved one, child, friend, neighbor, or innocent bystander. They engage in compulsions to reassure themselves they won’t act upon their disturbing thoughts.  These compulsions can include avoiding sharp objects, repeated checking to see if they harmed anyone, or repetitive praying or counting.

Relationship OCD

ROCD is characterized by distressing thoughts and obsessions related to romantic relationships. Those with ROCD may often doubt their feelings for their partner, question their attraction to them, and repeatedly wonder if they’re with the right person. These obsessions can lead to compulsions to gain certainty about their relationship. The compulsions can include repeatedly seeking relationship advice, comparing their relationship to others, going on dating apps to see what else is out there, or going on other dates to test one’s feelings.

Pure OCD

People with ‘Pure O’ have obsessive thoughts without outwardly engaging in compulsive behaviors. Often upsetting and distracting, their thoughts can lead to repetitively circular thinking patterns in attempt to “think their way out” of the distress.  Some examples are mentally reviewing events over and over, excessively ruminating on solving problems or making decisions, and silently repeating phrases to try to neutralize negative thoughts or thwart negative events.

Religious OCD

People with religious OCD can have irrational fears or doubts about their religious beliefs, practices, or morality. Their obsessions often revolve around breaking religious laws or moral codes, committing blasphemy, or fearing punishment by a higher power. Compulsions to alleviate their anxiety can include excessive praying, repeating religious rituals, carrying around religious objects or ornaments, and enforcing self-imposed punishments.

Just Right OCD (Perfectionism)

Spending hours writing and rewriting an email or text until it’s “just right”. Hanging shirts in a closet so they’re perfectly aligned. Walking along the sidewalk and avoiding cracks in the pavement. These are some common behaviors of Just Right OCD, a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder whereby the person is obsessed with doing things perfectly, often related to organization, symmetry,  and sequencing.

OCD Woman 4

OCD Symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms of OCD, the most common include:

  • Intrusive thoughts: Intrusive thoughts are distressing ideas and images that come to mind uninvited and unwanted. They can be scary, threatening, violent in nature, morally reprehensible, and not always reflective of the person’s actual beliefs or desires. These thoughts can be difficult for the person to control or dismiss.
  • Obsessions: Uncontrolled thoughts that infiltrate a person’s daily life are known as obsessions. They are involuntary and can come in many forms.
  • Compulsive checking: Many with OCD use checking as a way to soothe their obsessive worries. They may feel the need to check the stove repeatedly or check the door locks multiple times before leaving home. 
  • Rumination:  Many feel they cannot stop their thoughts about a certain worry and think about it over and over again.  They may ruminate on the worry itself or repeatedly try to “think their way out” of the distress.
  • Ordering:  The need for order is a well-known trait of OCD. It becomes a problem when it takes over a person’s daily routine. Some may spend hours rearranging and organizing items. 
  • Obsessive cleanliness: It’s common for someone with OCD to engage in behavior to avoid contamination, such as washing their hands multiple times within an hour, using gloves to open a public bathroom, or sterilizing surfaces before touching them. 
  • Repetition and rituals: The need for repetition and routine is common in people with OCD. This can include repeating phrases, flicking light switches multiple times, tapping doors, and counting objects.  These rituals are  comforting to the person with OCD because they worry something bad may happen if they don’t do them.

OCD Therapy

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy

Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) is a treatment for OCD in which the person is gradually exposed to their feared object or situation in a safe environment.  The person learns ways to tolerate their anxiety during the exposure so they can refrain from compulsions.  Over time and with practice of ERP, clients can become less afraid and choose healthy behaviors consistent with their true values, freeing them from their OCD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapy method that encourages clients to observe how their thought patterns influence their actions and choices in life. This therapy involves examining unwanted thought processes and working to change them. Identifying and modifying unwanted thought patterns can make it easier to engage in ERP therapy.

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy teaches you to experience unwanted thoughts, feelings, and sensations without attempts to control or eliminate them. This can help those with OCD gain greater psychological flexibility, allowing obsessive thoughts to be viewed as “just thoughts” versus actual threats that need a response. In turn, this can help OCD sufferers refrain from performing compulsions and live a more productive life.


What Causes OCD?

Contributing Factors

While the causes of OCD are not fully understood, there are some factors that increase the likelihood of developing it:

  • Genetics: Studies show people with family members with OCD are more likely to develop the condition, particularly those with first degree relatives with OCD. The likelihood increases if their relatives developed it as a child or teen.
  • Co-Existing conditions: Other conditions such as social anxiety disorder, mood disorder, and personality disorder make OCD more likely.
  • Childhood abuse: Trauma and abuse during childhood can lead to an increased likelihood of developing OCD. 
  • Cognitive Factors: Maladaptive thought patterns, such as an exaggerated sense of responsibility or an inability to tolerate uncertainty, may contribute to the development of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
  • Perfectionism: Certain personality traits, such as perfectionism or a high need for control, may be associated with increased risk of developing OCD.
  • Behavioral Conditioning: In some cases, learned behaviors or associations may contribute to the development and maintenance of OCD. For example, if a person develops a habit of engaging in a specific behavior to reduce anxiety, it may become a compulsive ritual.

Common OCD Triggers

There are a few things that often worsen OCD symptoms:

  • Stress: High levels of stress and anxiety can exacerbate OCD symptoms or trigger new ones.
  • Life changes: Major life changes, such as moving, starting a new job, or loss of a significant relationship or loved one, can be triggering.
  • Relationship Issues: Conflicts or difficulties in relationships may contribute to increased OCD symptoms, especially if the obsessions and compulsions are related to relationship concerns.
  • Environmental Triggers: Certain environments or situations, such as crowded places, can trigger OCD symptoms. For example, someone with contamination obsessions may be triggered in a crowded subway or public restroom.
  • Media Influence: Exposure to distressing or triggering content in the media, including news, movies, or social media, can contribute to obsessive thoughts.
  • Illness or Injury: Physical illness or injury can be a trigger for OCD symptoms. The fear of contamination or health-related obsessions may become more pronounced during times of illness.
  • Trauma: Individuals who have experienced trauma may find that their OCD symptoms are triggered or intensified by certain situations or reminders of the traumatic event.
Young male entrepreneur thinking of a solution to a problem on his new online business.

OCD Examples

The following are examples of how different types of OCD may present in daily life:

  • A man obsesses at work for hours over sending a client email. He reads his draft over and over making small revisions after each read until it’s “perfect”.  He might even show his email draft to his co-workers to get reassurance it’s “just right”.  
  • A girl feels the need to count all of the floor tiles in a room, worrying that otherwise, her mother may get into an accident.
  • A man in a romantic relationship has obsessive thoughts about whether he’s made the right choice in a partner. These obsessive thoughts lead to compulsive reassurance-seeking behaviors such as repeatedly asking advice from friends, comparing his relationship to others, and browsing dating apps.  All of which are attempts to reduce his anxiety over the choice he’s made to be with his partner.
  • A woman thinks obsessively about the germs that are on every surface in a shopping center and refuses to touch anything without a tissue or glove.

When to Seek OCD Treatment

Whether your OCD is moderate or severe, it may be time to seek help if:

  • Your OCD is affecting the quality of your day-to-day life.
  • You spend excessive time on compulsions and routines that prevent you from doing important tasks and things you truly value.
  • Your obsessive thinking about people or situations ("Pure O") occupies so much time and energy it significantly impacts your life.
  • Your OCD is affecting your work, relationships, and family.
  • You're afraid to go out in public due to fear of contamination or other obsessive thoughts.
  • Benefits of OCD Therapy

    OCD therapy (ERP) can greatly improve the lives of those affected. Some benefits of OCD treatment include:

    • Symptom Reduction:  Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is highly effective in reducing obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. It provides practical tools to reduce symptoms.
    • Behavioral Changes: ERP involves exposing individuals to anxiety-provoking situations while preventing the usual compulsive responses. This helps break the cycle of obsessive-compulsive patterns and encourages adaptive behavioral changes.
    • Improved Functioning: As symptoms diminish, individuals often experience improved overall functioning in various areas of their lives, including relationships, work, and daily activities. This can lead to a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
    • Enhanced Quality of Life:  ERP therapy can contribute to an improved quality of life by addressing the interference of OCD in daily activities. Individuals may find greater enjoyment in social interactions, leisure activities, and personal pursuits.
    Smiling handsome businessman with beard walking in city. Executive is looking away while carrying bag. He is wearing eyeglasses.

    Feel Better with BHNY

    If OCD is affecting your life, our clinicians are here to help.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is OCD an Anxiety Disorder?

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder used to be classified as an anxiety disorder, and many symptoms of OCD can cause anxiety, such as rumination and obsession over fears. However, the DSM-5 moved OCD to be classified under a new category of its own: OCD and Related Disorders.

    What Are the Differences Between OCPD vs. OCD?

    OCPD, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, is a personality disorder ruled by a need for control and perfectionism. It is generally consistent over time, while OCD fluctuates with stress and life changes. OCD is not a personality disorder and is ruled by obsessive thoughts and compulsions.

    Is OCD a Disability?

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers OCD to be a disability. If OCD has caused significant impairment in your everyday life, accommodations and other resources may be available to you.

    What Does OCD in Kids Look Like?

    OCD often begins in childhood or early adolescence. Children with OCD may experience excessive worry or engage in repetitive behaviors without knowing why. They may understand that their behavior is abnormal or irrational, and not disclose why they don’t want to touch certain objects or why they need to perform certain rituals. Creating an environment where children can openly discuss their struggles is essential to identifying OCD.