Dr. Pamela Simms
Licensed Psychologist 

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
is characterized by obsessions, compulsions or both. Obsessions are recurring thoughts, impulses or images that cause anxiety or distress, while compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels driven to do in order to reduce the anxiety or avoid some feared event or situation.


Common Obsessions

  • Fear of being contaminated by germs
  • Fear of causing harm to self or others
  • Fear of committing an unacceptable action
  • Need for things to feel “just right”
  • Need for things to be perfect

Common Compulsions

  • Checking
  • Praying
  • Excessive hand-washing
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Seeking reassurance
  • Hoarding objects


The main goal of treatment is to change the anxiety response, resulting from the obsessive thoughts, to one of indifference or irrelevance in order to extinguish the compulsions. In a supportive and accepting environment, Dr. Simms first provides psychoeducation to help the individual obtain a knowledge of OCD and of the skills they will learn to reduce their symptoms.


A behavioral treatment referred to as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the main treatment used. ERP consists of the individual exposing him/herself to the obsessions without carrying out the compulsions. Breaking of the obsessive-compulsive pattern leads to a reduction of the fear or anxiety sensation; therefore reducing the need to engage in compulsions.


Cognitive therapy is used in conjunction with the behavioral therapy to change thought patterns that often lead to anxiety or fear. Cognitive treatments include cognitive restructuring to challenge the automatic thoughts and weaken the belief of the possibility of danger, positive self-talk, cultivating distance from the obsessive thoughts and the anxiety that is associated with these thoughts, and mindfulness training.


In addition, family sessions are incorporated into therapy, as necessary, to disengage family members from the OCD patterns. Family members often find themselves participating in part of the compulsion, such as providing reassurance or doing the compulsive behavior for the individual to reduce the time required. While family members commonly engage in part of the compulsive patterns out of compassion and/or frustration, engaging in the OCD patterns strengthens the OCD.


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