Improve the Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with Mindfulness

Improve the Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“most OCD sufferers I know who practice mindfulness find it very helpful in fighting their disorder. To be able to focus on what is really happening in any given moment, as opposed to dwelling on the past or anticipating the future, takes away the power of OCD.” – Janet Singer


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) sufferer have repetitive anxiety producing intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that result in repetitive behaviors to reduce the anxiety (compulsions). In a typical example of OCD, the individual is concerned about germs and is unable to control the anxiety that these thoughts produce. Their solution is to engage in ritualized behaviors, such as repetitive cleaning or hand washing that for a short time relieves the anxiety. The obsessions and compulsions can become so frequent that they become a dominant theme in their lives. Hence OCD drastically reduces the quality of life and happiness of the sufferer and those around them. About 2% of the population, 3.3 million people in the U.S., are affected at some time in their life. Fortunately, OCD can be treated and Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in treating OCD.


In today’s Research News article “New-wave behavioral therapies in obsessive-compulsive disorder: Moving toward integrated behavioral therapies.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Manjula and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on new treatments for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). They included in their review studies involving two mindfulness treatment techniques; Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).


MBCT involves mindfulness training, containing sitting, walking and body scan meditations, and cognitive therapy That is designed to alter how the patient relates to the thought processes that often underlie and exacerbate psychological symptoms. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based psychotherapy technique that focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. It then works to change thinking to alter the interaction and produce greater life satisfaction. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. ACT teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes.


They find that the literature reports that both MBCT and ACT are successful in treating adults and children with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms and produces improvements in anxiety, depression, experiential avoidance, believability, the need to respond to obsessions, obsessions, and compulsions. These benefits were found to be sustained 6 months later. But the authors caution that the studies are often performed with small numbers of participants and often have methodological problems. They conclude that the present research is promising but larger better controlled trials need to be performed especially with comparisons to other therapies for OCD that do not include mindfulness training.


So, improve the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder with mindfulness.


mindfulness is really for anyone who wants to stop feeling like what is going on inside their mind is a burden.  It’s hard to imagine anyone with OCD who would wish to continue feeling that way.” – John Hershfield


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Manjula, M., & Sudhir, P. M. (2019). New-wave behavioral therapies in obsessive-compulsive disorder: Moving toward integrated behavioral therapies. Indian journal of psychiatry, 61(Suppl 1), S104-S113.



New-wave behavioral therapies in obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCDs) comprise of third-wave therapies and newer cognitive therapies (CTs). This review covers outcome studies published in English until December 2017. A total of forty articles on mindfulness-based CT, metacognitive therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and danger ideation reduction therapy in the form of single-case studies, case series, open-label trials, two-group comparison studies, and randomized controlled studies were included. Results show that studies on these therapies are limited in number. Methodological limitations including lack of active control groups, randomized controlled trials, small sample sizes, and short follow-up periods were also noted. However, the available literature demonstrates the feasibility and utility of these therapies in addressing the issues unresolved by exposure and response prevention (ERP) and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). These therapies were often combined with traditional ERP and CBT based on the profile and response of the client; hence, it is unclear whether they can be used as standalone therapies in the larger segment of the OCD population. Supplementary use of these strategies alongside established therapies could provide better utilization of resources. In view of the need for such integration, further research is warranted. The use of sound methodologies and establishing the mechanism of action of these therapies would assist in choosing the techniques for integration.


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