OCD and Physical Pain: Causes, Treatments, and How to Cope

Treatment for OCD will vary between people based on their individual symptoms. In some cases, physical pain symptoms may improve or disappear when you receive effective treatment for your symptoms of OCD.

If you have an existing chronic pain condition, like arthritis, it’s important to discuss the best treatments and pain relief options with your healthcare team, too.

According to the International OCD Foundation, the two most successful methods used to treat OCD are:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). A type of CBT called exposure therapy (ERP) can help. This involves exposing a person to their triggers and working directly with a mental health worker to change their response to the stimuli.
  • Medication. In addition to ERP, a doctor may recommend you take certain serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRI) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Many people find benefits from taking medications in conjunction with ERP therapy as part of a wider treatment plan.

In addition to ERP and medication, you may find that support groups can offer some additional benefit for your symptoms. Support groups can help you connect with other people that are going through similar feelings, struggles, and experiences.

The International OCD Foundation also gives several tips on navigating treatment and managing your symptoms. Some steps may include:

  • Expect the unexpected. Old thoughts can resurface, and new ones can arise. This is all part of the process.
  • Acknowledge your thoughts, agree with them, and move on. These thoughts don’t have any true answers, after all.
  • Avoid trying to “not think” the thoughts. Trying to prevent or block thoughts can often have the opposite effect, leading to more intrusive thoughts.
  • Accept that slip-ups will happen. Even if you give in to a compulsion, there’s always a chance to interrupt it or to try again next time.
  • Try to handle your symptoms independently. Relying on other people may not help as much, because they might not always be available. You’ll always be available for yourself.
  • Move towards the anxiety. The way to overcome a fear is to face it. Working with a therapist can make this possible.
  • Follow your homework assignments. If your therapist gives you homework, try your best to follow along.

If you’re also living with other underlying conditions, such as arthritis, you can work with your primary care doctor to develop a treatment plan specific to your other condition. This may involve medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes.