Exposure Response Prevention, commonly referred to as ERP, is a therapy that encourages you to face your fears and let obsessive thoughts occur without ‘putting them right’ or ‘neutralizing’ them with compulsions.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not a thought disorder; it’s a feeling disorder. People without OCD may get an intrusive thought but be able to look at that intrusive thought and think, “OK, that’s weird. But I’m going to move on from it.” Somebody with OCD will get the intrusive thought, but along with the thought comes the overwhelming emotion of anxiety. Because they feel that emotion, they give the thought attention. The emotion then hijacks one’s reality and makes them believe that the thought must be true, because why else would they feel this crippling anxiety along with it? Then they fall victim into believing the thought so they start to analyze and dissect it. OCD tells you things that aren’t true or things that you know for a fact aren’t true, but you’re falling for it anyways because your brain is telling you to. The thought gives you the anxiety and fear, so why wouldn’t you fall for it? It’s easy to!
Since OCD is a feeling disorder, Exposure with Response Prevention is the gold standard for treating it. Treating OCD isn’t about getting rid of the thoughts entirely, but it involves minimizing the anxiety associated with the thought so that you can live your life to it’s fullest potential.
Anxiety is our body’s natural alert system. We need it to survive. If you’re hiking in the woods and hear a loud growl, your body will fire off chemicals causing you to feel anxiety. Instead of continuing to walk towards the growling, your anxiety keeps you out of danger by going down a different path or preparing yourself for the danger that is about to come. My job isn’t to get rid of your anxiety because you need it. My job is to help you change your relationship with anxiety, and provide you with the necessary tools to determine what is a real threat vs. a perceived threat
There is no need to be intimidated by Exposure with Response Prevention. In order to stop these faulty alarm signals in your brain, you have to make the decision to stop the compulsive behaviors. This is how you will see a reduction in your obsessive thoughts and reduced in anxiety. Our trained ERP providers will assist you with stopping the compulsive behavior by creating a hierarchy of your anxieties as we slowly work our way up. We will teach you how to look your anxiety in the face and walk towards it instead of walking away. ERP is safe. At times, exposures may feel unsafe, however those are false messages from your brain. It is easy to stay trapped and believe the false lies that your OCD feeds you. Our OCD trained therapists will teach you how to rewire your brain into no longer believing those false threats that your brain is torturing you with.